Jun 5th, 2012 by 'holic
Chief executive Ivan Gazidis has been talking to Arsenal Media about a range of topical issues. From our performance in the season just ended, through our ambitions for this summer and the season ahead, and covering commercial activities, it is a fairly comprehensive and honest assessment of where he feels we are at present.
And yes, the situation surrounding the captain is mentioned but, as Robin himself has already said, the content of the discussions that have already taken place are to remain between club and player until after the Euros have concluded.
“We have to respect the fact we have agreed to keep that among ourselves. Robin is clearly focused on the Euros at the moment and we wish him well, and at the right time we will make the right announcements. But at the moment we are not saying anything.”
Those carefully chosen words will do nothing to assure those who are looking for a sign that Robin will still be leading the side out next season. I’m all for not making that ulcer worse. Let’s wait and see what transpires. A collective venting of spleens in frustration won’t bring forward the date of any further concrete information.
On the topic of last season Ivan concedes it was “challenging”, losing key players for various reasons, and not for the last time acknowledged the contribution of the support.
“We have ended the season in third place with guaranteed qualification for next season’s Champions League and that allows us to plan with certainty going into next year, but none of this is cause for popping champagne corks at Arsenal. We want to win things. So while it is a creditable performance it is not achieving our ambition. What we have to work out this summer is how we can take the Club on and take a step forward.”
“I felt that under pressure at difficult times, our fans, players, team and club really came together. I felt at times like our new stadium really began to feel like our home. There was a tremendous unity that pulled us through those times and developed momentum which ultimately ended up carrying us across the line to the Champions League places, which earlier in the season we had been written off from.”
On a day when the current manager of our nearest neighbours was foolishly downplaying the importance of Champions League football it is good to hear recognition from our boardroom that it is a minimum requirement, and that winning trophies is our ambition. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating though. Have we learned the lessons of last summer?
“We want to win major competitions, we want to win the Premier League. We want to compete to win the Champions League and that is our ambition. That is what we are planning for during the course of the summer and everything we do is geared towards that, it is very simple. I think the good thing about this summer is that there is more certainty in terms of our Champions League position. We have acted early to get the critical signing in Lukas Podolski. The great thing about Lukas is that not only can he contribute goals, but he can also play in different positions so you get tremendous versatility and Arsenal class. He is technically a top-class player.”
Ivan goes on to point out although he expects things to go quiet on the transfer front while players are at the Euros he is expecting a period of activity thereafter. You wouldn’t expect him to say anything else I suppose, but again it would appear that those in Highbury House are well aware of the need to strengthen during the summer, and that any such activity should be a two-way street with further departures to free up money and squad places.
Another area where the club have come in for some criticism is in the area of commercial revenues, and Ivan doesn’t duck those questions. The supporters have been asked to dig deep in their pockets, particularly last summer. It is not unreasonable for supporters to want to see more benefit from the move to the new stadium and for our commercial team to make the sort of strides that we have seen at our major rivals.
“One of the things we have to do as a club is become less reliant on our match day revenue. As a big club we are very reliant on the revenues we generate in the stadium, more so than any other big club. We are developing our commercial revenues and our commercial partnerships well ahead of our five-year plan. They are going very well and we are seeing renewal of major partnerships like Citroën. We are seeing new partners come in like Indesit or Betsson and most recently we have just announced Malta Guinness in Africa. So there are tremendous developments on the commercial front and that is important for the Club that we have partners who can help us to connect with fans all around the world, develop our commercial revenue streams and take some of the pressure off locally-generated revenues here in London.”
Admirable words indeed, although I suspect many would like to see a more ambitious five year plan to be put in place. Ivan also discusses the importance of the tours abroad as we attempt to connect with a wider supporter base. There is acknowledgement of the contribution of Stan Kroenke, not entirely unexpected, before Ivan returns to the subject of the support, and the effect they had at various stages of the year.
I would like to thank the supporters. This at times has been a really challenging season. This football club was placed under terrific pressure at times and I think, for a different club, there would have been the possibility that we would begin to fall apart, panic and make decisions that would have been bad. That is not what happened. When we had our most difficult times this football club came together. The supporters, the team, the front office staff, the back office staff – they all came together. It was that strength and that unity that managed to pull our season back on track this year. My message to our fans is that we are doing everything in our power to make sure that Arsenal can challenge for trophies next year. That is what this summer is about and that is what we are focused on for next year. We have a good team, we have a good young core of players and we need everybody involved to have belief so that we can push forward into next year and make a run at the Premier League trophy and for the Champions League. We believe we can do that.
That is both an acknowledgement and a rallying call you might argue he has to give, but only the truly cynical could doubt the sincerity of the sentiment. Ivan knows full well that words alone will not quell the misgivings of a significant chunk of the support. He will face more searching questions on Wednesday evening at the Arsenal Supporters Trust end of season Q&A. There he will experience the full range of feelings about where we are at the moment, and it will be a fascinating watch on Arsenal Player later this week.
There is no doubt in the course of the last year the club has made great strides in its efforts to communicate better with its supporters through a variety of channels. Ivan will know full well though that despite those improvements the undercurrent of unrest that surfaces from time to time is poised to rear its ugly head again if we fail to have a competitive squad in place by the start of the season. I can’t help but feel that the period of activity he mentions post-Euros will be the most significant few weeks in Arsenal’s recent history.
I’m not aggravating that ulcer yet however.
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