Gazidis on Wenger

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Interview

'The thank you will be very deep and profound'

By Ivan Gazidis' own admission, Friday was an historic, exhausting and emotional day for everyone connected with the club.

Our chief executive spoke with Arsenal Media about Arsene Wenger's decision to stand down at the end of the season and this is what he said:

on an emotional day...
I think all of us today, especially me maybe because I've had such a close personal relationship with Arsene over the past 10 years, just have a wide range of strong emotions. It is a powerful day, and there's a lot of conflicting feelings mixed in together. There is a real sense of sadness, a changing of an era, the beginning of saying goodbye, but also a powerful sense that we need to activate ourselves, we need to get behind this man. We have a chance to push for a really special moment for him, and for the club and for all of us. There is an energy there as well as this feeling of transition. Everybody at a time like this feels a sense of uncertainty, can we look to the future with confidence. One of the advantages of being in my position is knowing that the foundation, the values, what Arsene has done for the football club can be taken forward. We have fantastic people at this club, with real capability to do that and our challenge is to carry on that brilliant legacy that Arsene has given us and do it in a way that makes him proud. I am energised behind that and I know everyone at the club is.

on why the decision was taken...
Today I am focusing on paying tribute to Arsene. I don't want to get into a public discussion about private conversations that I want to respect. The decision has been made and now there are two things that are important. The first is that we take some time to honour Arsene and to show him how much love and affection there is for him, and to get behind him and make some special moments for him and for this club. The second thing is to begin to look forward longer term, how do we take that legacy forward? Those are the important things today, and today the second part of that task begins.

on moving on from that 22-year relationship between the boss and the club...
You don't break the relationship. Arsene's relationship with this club is unbreakable, it will always be a special relationship and it will last as long as Arsene Wenger is on this earth and longer than that. The relationship is not broken, it will take different forms as we move forward. The love, the mutual love and affection, regard, respect will always be there and the great thing is that for our fans they have the opportunity, which I know they will take, to express what they feel about this man.

on the response from the fans for the final three home games...
Every one of these games will be absolutely special and probably all of us are feeling that there are 270 minutes left of this man with Arsenal here in the stadium that he helped to build. We want to make every minute of that special. For everyone who loves Arsenal, and I would say everyone who loves football, these are going to be special games, and a special atmosphere and I think the thank you will be very deep and very profound.

on his final reflections...
It has been an exhausting day, probably for all of us. There are helicopters circling above the stadium, people coming to the stadium wanting to show their emotions, the amount fo worldwide coverage, the types of people speaking - not just football people, but people from every walk of life - I think my reflections of the day are that when moments like this happen that is when you realise just how extraordinary the reach is, not just of Arsenal but of Arsene Wenger and his personality.

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.”

Press conference

Gazidis on the criteria for our next manager

Ivan Gazidis spoke at length on Friday about his admiration for Arsene Wenger - and how we plan to move on when the manager leaves at the end of the season.

At his press conference, our chief executive outlined the qualities required to take on one of the biggest jobs in world football. Here’s what he said:

on whether the club will be unstable now…
I certainly don’t think it heralds a new era of instability at the club. One of our challenges and one of the things that will inform us as we move forward are the values of the club and the values that Arsene has instilled in the club. This relationship with Arsene was not a one-way relationship of loyalty, it was a mutual relationship of loyalty. And so Arsene’s values play a part in that but so do the club’s values. We need to take those values forward, both in the appointment but also in the environment that we create.

on the challenge of appointing a new manager…
Actually we have a tremendous amount of experience in the football club. I’ve been involved in professional football for 25 years, overseeing the football side of Major League Soccer, with multiple coaching changes there. Raul Sanllehi has been through five or six different Barcelona coaching changes and presidential changes. Sven Mislintat has been through a number at Borussia Dortmund, and then on the board we have board members who are old enough and experienced enough to have been through Arsenal changes. And then of course Stan Kroenke and Josh Kroenke themselves have been through many, many coaching changes in different sports. All of that experience exists, I doubt there is a more experienced group in handling changes of coaches. Having said all of that, it is a very unique situation. None of us have been through a coaching change and a managerial change that will be like this one. I recognise the size of the challenge but I do think we have the resources and the people and the experience and the knowhow to make the right choice for the future of this football club.

on the profile the club is looking for when it replaces him…
I think that process starts today. What I will say is that it’s important to me that we continue the football values that Arsene has instilled in the club. I want to see somebody who can continue that for our fans, and our fans want to see that. Somebody who will continue to play exciting, progressive football that gets people interested and excited in the games we play. But I also think there is a significant piece with Arsenal Football Club of how the candidate represents the club. That’s important to me and I think it’s important to Arsenal fans. Those qualities… you mentioned again, ‘replace Arsene’, but that’s not going to happen. But what we have to do is that we don’t lose his qualities and his values within the club, and that we take them forward. I’m absolutely committed to doing that.

on the criteria for a new manager…
We have to go through that process. There is another value which I didn’t talk about which is young players. Our academy teams are doing extremely well and under the radar we have got a lot of players coming through into our first team, not just ones that you already know about but the next generation as well. So that value of giving youth a chance is also very important to the football club. I think we have got to be open-minded and also brave in the decision. When Arsene was appointed, I don’t think he was on many people’s radar screens. That doesn’t mean we have to make another appointment that not everybody is thinking about and talking about but it does mean we need to be bold and get the person we believe is the right person.

Press conference

‘A send-off that the world will take notice of’

Ivan Gazidis says that Arsene Wenger will “feel the full force of this club behind him” when he takes his final steps as our manager.

The boss will stand down at the end of the season, bringing to a close almost 22 years at the club.

In the final part of Ivan’s press conference transcript, the chief executive looks ahead to our remaining home games.

on whether it was an emotional conversation…
I don’t think Arsene could leave a club after 22 years without there being a lot of emotion involved, and right across the club, for myself personally, 10 years… it’s not just a working relationship that I have with Arsene, it’s a personal relationship and we’ve been through a lot together. For me personally it’s a highly emotional day today, but it’s interesting speaking with members of staff, at London Colney and at Highbury House, just how impactful today is. It feels very, very big. At the moment we are still assimilating that, but tomorrow we have to start thinking about how we move forward. Arsene is going to feel the full force of this club behind him over the next couple of weeks. Beyond that we are going to take what Arsene has given us and we are going to take it forward. I will make sure we do that.

on personally wanting him to stay…
I don’t want to get into all the discussions that went on. The decision is made. I think now it is time to honour him today. I see that and I am really heartened by what’s happening. And you will all see the power and unity of the club. Now, for me as chief executive and the team of people we have looking forward, we have to embark upon a process which we have not done – whatever is being said, we have not done that – because we would never do that. I don’t think it is in Arsenal’s values to do that behind the back of a great man like Arsene. Other clubs go out and conduct their managerial search for understandable reasons in that way. For us, there has been a conversation. Arsene has made his decision and now that process begins.

on the players being informed…
I’ve spoken with Per Mertesacker today after the meeting. I wanted Arsene to have that space to speak to the players himself. It is very, very clear that our players are going to fight for this man and make sure that they send him off in the right way. I don’t know what that means for results but I can tell you that the commitment of these players to finish the season strongly is absolutely unquestioned.

on making a quick appointment…
The most important thing is to make the right appointment, not to make a quick appointment.

on a quick announcement…
Again, really, today we are assimilating a lot. A lot has happened. That process starts this evening.

on the send-off…
We are working on plans and I think West Ham on Sunday will be a great atmosphere. Thursday [against Atletico Madrid] will be electric and I think the Burnley game on May 6 will be a send-off that the world will take notice of.

Press conference

‘It’s a time to honour him and look forward’

Ivan Gazidis has been with us for almost 10 years and he’s worked closely with Arsene Wenger since day one.

So the chief executive has had a perfect insight into the way Wenger operates - inside and outside of football.

In this part of Ivan’s press conference transcript the CEO recalls his standout memories of working with the boss and the regular speculation over Wenger’s future.

on whether this is the right decision…
The decision had to happen at one point. I think what I could say to that is that I don’t think the club has ever been better prepared for that decision. Now it’s time for us to look forward and, as I say, I think we can do it with confidence.

on whether the new manager will have the same power and influence as Wenger…
Arsène earned his position at this club over 22 years. I don’t think there will be other managers, if you look forward, that have that kind of authority at the top of the game at the biggest clubs. Obviously it’s the most important appointment that any club makes and it’s still the most important employee that any club has. I don’t diminish the role, I just think that it would be unrealistic to think that anybody comes in with the breadth and scope that Arsène has had at Arsenal Football Club. I don’t think it’s true to say that the structure was created around Arsène to give us robustness looking forward, it’s really something that Arsène played a full part in. He was making sure that the club was prepared and ready for the future. It comes back to what he said, which is that when the day comes to leave the club, he wants to leave it in a stronger position than he found it. I think he leaves us in a very strong position to look forward.

on whether it was a mutual decision…
I don’t want to go into the details of private conversations around the decision. Today’s not for that. We’re paying tribute to a great man and we’re looking forward for the football club with confidence.

on his standout memories of working with Arsène…
There are great moments. The trophies, the FA Cups, the victory against Barcelona - these are great memories that everybody’s familiar with. But the types of memory that I have about Arsène are speaking to him in quiet moments and the type of person he is. He’s an extraordinarily self-critical, thoughtful, intelligent person who always gives others the benefit of the doubt. That’s how he is. When you see that behind the scenes, you’re not going to find… there’s a reason why there is so much affection from so many players and people that have worked with Arsène, and seen how he is in and around the football club. There’s a reason for that, because he’s a special person.

on whether it’s been difficult to watch speculation over his future…
I think Arsène has taken everything that’s been thrown at him with real humour and grace. I think, as he now makes the step to the next phase of his life, I think everybody is a little bit more reflective. I think it’s a moment like this that you can really better appreciate what an extraordinary person Arsenal Football Club is losing and also the breadth of his contribution. I think all of that affection comes through especially, I would say above the football part, is the inspirational figure he is for so many people who have interactions with him. How he’s developed them as people off the field, how he speaks to them about wider issues than just football - it’s all of those things.

on whether he tried to talk him out of it…
Again I go back to… I want to be sensitive about disclosing publicly what really should remain private conversations. Arsene can talk on Sunday about the decision. From my perspective now it’s a time to honour him and look forward.

Press conference

‘For all of us, having clarity sooner is better'

Ivan Gazidis spoke for 25 minutes in the press conference room at Emirates Stadium on the day the club announce that Arsene Wenger’s tenure was drawing to a close.

We’ve got the full transcript for you, and it continues here with the CEO’s comments about the process of choosing the boss’ successor, and why the decision was made now.

on how Wenger came to his decision…
I don’t want to get into the private conversations. I don’t think today is the day for that. I want to respect the privacy of the conversations that were had around the decision. Arsène will speak on Sunday, but from my part today, it’s really about paying tribute to a great man and talking about the club as we look forward.

on how difficult it will be to replace him…
We’re not going to find a replacement for Arsène Wenger. For a variety of reasons Arsène is an extraordinary manager and an extraordinary person. He came into the game 22 years ago, when the game was very different. It’s evolved in so many ways and Arsène has evolved with it. When we look forward, the football club is in a very different place to what it was 22 years ago. It’s unthinkable to me that we’re going to have another manager in the Premier League, let alone at Arsenal, who will be 22 years in tenure and have the run of consistent success that Arsène had over those years.

on if it will be a ‘clean break’…
Arsène will always have a place at the club. Today it’s too early to talk about what that might look like down the road. I think for today we’re dealing with the announcement that was made this morning and the immediate reaction to that.

on if Wenger will have a say in picking his successor…
We’re going to have a process around that. The process begins today but I want to keep that process in-house. I don’t want to be making public comments about it. We’ll go through a respectful process. In accordance with Arsenal values and our respect for this man, we haven’t had any discussions today regarding that. That process begins today. I’ve said I don’t underestimate the challenge of that. This club has to rise to the challenge. I’m confident we can do it. As you started by saying, and as I started by saying, you don’t find a replacement for Arsène Wenger, you find a new path forward.

on if Wenger will carry on as a manager…
He is somebody who is in great shape. He has a competitive edge in the same way he always had. But that’s really a question for him now.

on why it’s happened now…
I would say two things. One, that the Arsenal family could come together and express the affection and our gratitude to this great man. That meant providing an opportunity for that to happen. I think you’re going to see some fantastic atmospheres and a coming together of the Arsenal family in the three home games that we have remaining this season. Secondly, Arsène and the club need time to prepare. It’s going to be a condensed summer, with the World Cup right in the middle of it, a shortened transfer window. I think for all of us, having the clarity sooner is better. I think from the reaction at the training ground today, what I’ve felt is an incredible amount of passion, a coming together and urgency, a desire to give Arsène the send-off that he deserves. I’m convinced that our players and fans will get behind that very strongly for the remainder of the season with the goals that we have left.