Having spent the best part of the last two seasons wresting control of Arsenal from Arsene Wenger, and having installed a less autocratic, multidimensional leadership team at the top of the club, one would think that Ivan Gazidis would spend this year channeling his inner Alexander The Great, and weeping because there were no more worlds to conquer. Or, at the very least, finally running the club he’s seemed to want to run for a long time now, but couldn’t because there was a Wenger-shaped obstruction blocking his doorway.
Instead, we get a few weeks worth of swirling rumors that Gazidis, the architect of New Era Arsenal, is on his way to Milan to do the same rebuilding job there that he’s done in London. This first started being a thing a couple weeks ago, and in the intervening time, there have been a few sporadic reports linking Gazidis to the AC Milan job, but nothing concrete. Importantly, however, the rumors have not stopped.
Today, Sir Chips Keswick, owner of the best name in football management, attempted to pour cold water on the rumor:
“We are aware of the speculation surrounding our chief executive Ivan Gazidis. We know he receives many offers from organisations inside and outside the game as he’s a hugely respected figure. He has never accepted any of these opportunities and has never spoken about them publicly. He has always been fully committed to taking Arsenal forward and is currently working hard in Singapore with our new head coach Unai Emery as we prepare for the new season.”
See, that’s all well and good, but what’s missing from that statement is any language indicationg that a) the rumors are false or b) the rumors are true and that Gazidis is staying in London to run the team he’s built.
What does all that mean? Nobody knows for sure. But on the surface, it would seem to mean that Gazidis is strongly considering taking a Milan job that may or may not be on offer, and that Arsenal may soon need a new CEO. Which I guess was the point of Gazidis’ decentralization thing - he tried to make it so the club is not reliant on any one person for its successful operation, and apparently that included himself.
The one thing I would caution against as we think about and react to this news, if it happens, is the danger of thinking “WHY DID GAZIDIS FIRE WENGER JUST TO LEAVE A FEW MONTHS LATER”. Wenger needed to go, and we all knew it. It was time for a change. Arsenal were stagnating under Wenger’s leadership of late, and just because the engineer of his departure is gone now doesn’t mean that if Wenger had waited him out, everything would magically be better with Wenger in charge and Gazidis gone.
Arsenal have moved on from Wenger, and are seemingly about to move on from Gazidis. Time will tell whether those are both unanimously good things or not, but one had to happen, and the other, well, it’s a bit more confusing but I’m reserving judgment on whether it’s good or bad, and looking forward to what happens next in this strange new world.