Ivan Gazidis spoke to the media today, hours after Arsene Wenger made the announcement we’d all been hoping for but not expecting. As you would expect, Gazidis was full of honest, warm, genuine praise for Wenger and what he’s accomplished through the years, in Wenger’s career overall and particularly in the 10 years Gazidis and Wenger worked together.
Gazidis spoke at some length about Arsene’s qualities as a person, not just as a football manager, saying that his “humor, grace, and class” endeared him to people both inside the club and outside. He mentioned that Wenger was not at the press conference, saying “He’s at Colney this morning, because that’s who he is”. He also said that
Beyond football, he’s inspired the people around him, through his human qualities, his empathy.
and when asked about plans to honor Wenger, both in the short term in Arsenal’s remaining games and overall, he said
We’re working on plans. The Burnley game on May 6th will be a send-off the world will take notice of.
He also said that all three remaining home games would have “amazing” atmospheres, as fans get their chance to say goodbye to a man who essentially made Arsenal what it is today, and that the players “are going to fight for this man and make sure they send him off in the right way” in the club’s remaining games this season.
The questions from the assembled media then turned, inevitably, to what happens next. Gazidis wouldn’t be drawn on the actual making of the next batch of managerial sausage, instead saying “We will have a process, but will be keeping it in house. I don’t want to make public comments about (the process)”.
He also said that the club is “not looking for a replacement for Arsene Wenger”, the strongest indication yet that they’re not going to seek a coach for the next 20 years but for the next few. He also was very insistent that “The most important thing is to make the right appointment, not the quick one”.
As to why the announcement came now, and not, say, after Arsenal’s final game this season?
We wanted to have the opportunity for the Arsenal family to come together and express our affection and our gratitude for this man” and secondly “Arsene and the club need time to prepare. We have a condensed summer with the World Cup, and having clarity sooner is better.
So while they won’t make an announcement about a new manager next week, I would maybe expect such an announcement prior to the World Cup. As far as the search itself, as I said, Gazidis was pretty tight-lipped, but he did give some general principles:
One of the things that will inform us (in our search) are the values of the club, which Arsene’s been a big part of. None of us have been through a managerial change like this one, but I believe we have the people and the experience to make the right decision.
”there’s a significant piece (of the “who will be the new manager” puzzle) in how the candidate represents the club...we have to be open minded and brave in our decision.
He talked quite a bit about the importance of leveraging Arsenal’s academy and integrating young players as much as possible, saying “the value of giving youth a chance is very important”. Gazidis also said they “don’t underestimate the challenge” of replacing Wenger, but in doing so, that “people will see the unity and power of this great club, and of the people within it”.
And with that, he ended the presser. It was clear in listening to him, even though a lot of his answers were vague-ish and boilerplate (which is to be expected at these sorts of events), that he and everyone at the club, unsurprisingly, hold Wenger in the very highest of esteem, and they are going to work very, very hard to honor the legacy Wenger built and the club he’s turned Arsenal into over the last two decades.