Arsenal didn’t change, at least in its front office, for over two decades. Now, all of a sudden, everything’s changing. Which is fine - that’s how life works, after all, things change and evolve and move forward all the time. But if the rumors of Arsenal’s next move turn out to be true, it would be a very strange move indeed.
One of the prime movers behind a lot of Arsenal’s changes in the last few years has been CEO Ivan Gazidis. He recognized a few years back that Arsenal were way too reliant on Arsene Wenger; Wenger was in charge of literally everything at the club at that point, and Gazidis realized that, going forward, that was going to be unsustainable. Wenger, after all, wasn’t going to be around forever, and Arsenal needed to have a structure in place to survive his departure, whenever that turned out to be.
So, for a couple seasons, behind the scenes, there was reportedly a power struggle, while Gazidis attempted to reform the front office and Wenger, he of the two decades of success, kinda shrugged and went “things seem fine to me”. Last season, Gazidis appointed Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi to oversee Arsenal’s transfer business, but it was unclear whether they were in charge or Wenger was; there were other changes and devolutions too, but those were the most visible signs that Gazidis was attempting to stamp his vision onto the club’s future.
We all, of course, know how that turned out; Wenger announced his departure in April and oversaw his last match in May, and after a conversation with Mikel Arteta that got a lot further than many thought it would, Gazidis announced Unai Emery as Arsenal’s new coach in early June, and the transition from a one-man show to a group-run team was seemingly complete, with Gazidis coming out the other side the “winner”, if there was indeed a power struggle.
Which, as I said, makes the rumors swirling around the last couple days all that much stranger:
RT capuanogio: #Milan news (-4 assemblea dei soci) ⚫️— SimplyArsenal™ (@SlMPLYARSENAL) July 17, 2018
- Ivan #Gazidis vicino al posto di ad
- #Fassone debolissimo anche se non ancora fuori
- Missione a Londra con #Mirabelli per Morata?
- #Elliott gestisce il calciomercato applicando parametri finanziari di valorizzazion…
Last Retweet: “Ivan #Gazidis is close to be [AC Milan’s] CEO.”— Arsènic™ (@MrArsenicTM) July 17, 2018
Now, this is obviously just a random couple tweets; Twitter is hardly an authoritative source for anything, really, so let’s go check out the wider Internet, and see if this smoke has any fire behind it or if it’s just dry ice, shall we?
The Express today has a story about it, talking about how AC Milan’s previous ownership left the club in such a state that the current owners have a lot of work to do to get them out of trouble, and they view Gazidis as just the man to solve their problems. But then you see Arseblog’s story from earlier today, which quotes an “Arsenal spokesman” as saying the club has “no knowledge” of this potential move, and that “it would be a big shock if the 53 year old were to jump ship at this point”.
This may just be confirmation bias on my part, but I tend to view this whole story that way. Why would Gazidis undergo two years of upheaval, anger, and stress to rework how Arsenal does business just to walk out the door once that transition - a transition that sees him with more day-to-day power and control - is complete? I’m no business guru, but that doesn’t seem to be how power struggles work - once you win, you don’t leave. You enjoy the fruits of your work, at least for a bit.
That’s especially true for this particular stage in Arsenal’s history - the fresh start fans have been almost literally screaming for for the better part of five seasons now is under way, and while the entirety of the fan base isn’t 100% happy yet (no fan base of any team ever is, really), there’s a sense of optimism and newness around Arsenal that is really exciting, and as the main advocate for and architect of all that change, it’d surprise me if Gazidis left at this juncture. Watch this space, I guess?