Press conference

‘Thank you… to a great man and a great manager’

Ivan Gazidis faced the media on Friday following the announcement that Arsene Wenger is stepping down as our manager at the end of the season.

Ivan fielded a number of questions but, before he did, he paid this tribute to the boss.

“Obviously this has been an emotional day for everyone connected with the football club and I now have the impossible job of trying to express the feelings of those of us who love the club and love football.

“Typically, Arsene is not here today because his focus is on the game on Sunday. I left him on the fields of the training ground at Colney this morning, that is who he is.

“People are talking a lot, and wonderfully, about what Arsene has done for Arsenal Football Club and what he has done for the wider world of football.

“I will leave it to others to talk about the facts and figures of his 22-year tenure, his achievements are extraordinary and may of them will not be repeated.

“But there is something more coming out today - there is widespread affection from Arsenal fans but also from right across the sphere of football.

“I have had the pleasure of working closely alongside Arsene for the last 10 years, so what I would like to do is talk about Arsene as a football man but also as a person.

“Arsene changed the game, he set a totally new standard, a new ambition. An ambition not just to win but to win while achieving perfection, to make art of out football.

“He was always brave enough to be true to that extraordinary ambition and incredibly he achieved it with Arsenal's Invincible season.

“People these days use the words ‘football philosophy’ lightly but Arsene truly has a football philosophy and has been brave enough to live by it.

“In doing that he has reinvented the game and played some of the best football we have ever seen. He has transformed the beautiful game and has made Arsenal famous throughout the world for the style of football we play. Arsenal fans take enormous pride in that and for that we say 'thank you, Arsene.'

“Beyond football he has inspired the people around him. He does this through his human qualities, his understanding and his empathy for people.

“He is able to make people believe that they can achieve great things, on and beyond the football pitch. He inspired George Weah to believe not only that he could become the world's best footballer but to have the conviction that he could become the president of a country.

“He has done all of this while remaining true to his values and the values of this great football club.

“He has taken every challenge he has faced with humour, grace and class. I take enormous pride in that and, for that also, on behalf of all Arsenal fans, I say 'thank you Arsene.'

“Arsene often said his aim was to leave the club in a better position than when he found it.

“Well, we are in a better place today than we could have ever imagined 22 years ago. The foundations of this club have never been stronger and this gives me great confidence as we begin to chart the path ahead.

“I spent an hour with Arsene this morning in the quiet after the announcement.

“No words can describe this man. He loves the game and he loves this club, I'm not here today to talk about any private discussions, today is about paying tribute to a great manager and a great man.

“Our first priority is to come together as a club and we’re seeing that today. Look at the outpouring of affection from the Arsenal family and from the football family. Our players, staff and fans are behind this great man, and we will give him the send-off he deserves. 

“Then, we have to start on the challenge of building on the platform we have created. I don’t underestimate that challenge. I’ve often said it’s the biggest challenge we will have to face, but I’m confident in the people we have in place to take forward Arsène’s legacy and build on it, and I’m excited for the future.

“In the coming weeks and months, the world will see the unity and power of this great football club, and the people within it.

“I have the greatest respect for Arsène, and I value his incredible contribution to this club. It’s my ambition, my goal, to ensure that we honour and build on that contribution as we take our club forward. Now it’s for the club, now it’s for Arsène, now it’s for Arsenal. 

“Thank you.”

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