By Avenell Dave
Today is the AST audience with Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis.
I’ve been to three of these now and the former MLS chief is always articulate, fascinating and gives me hope for the summer and the new season.
I don’t mind admitting that I’ve been disappointed that some of the assertions haven’t been kept and that we’ve not competed to the level we would have hoped in the past few years.
But football isn’t a computer game and while it would be easy to blame Gazidis for the problems that have occurred, that ignores the fact that there are a number of powerful people at the club, including the manager and owner and that with oligarchs and sheikhs spending money, it is almost impossible to compete on level terms.
But it was fascinating to read comments from Gazidis that came out last night ahead of today’s AST meeting.
In some respects, they take the sting out of what could be a fruity encounter this evening even though there will be some who still expect us to have signed Messi and Ronaldo by the end of the week or they’ll be unhappy.
Gazidis admitted it was difficult but he did reveal that us getting third should make this summer easier in terms of doing some business.
He said: “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. 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.
“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. That is what we are working hard on at the moment.”
Those words themselves are interesting. As fans, we could probably argue that, apart from getting rid of the obvious deadwood, we need to sign one or two strikers, a creative midfielder to replace the Cesc/Na$ri axis and even possibly an adaptable defender, especially if Johann Djourou leaves.
We’re always going to struggle to compete with sides for whom money is no object, especially if UEFA continue to pay little attention to their own Financial Fair Play rules.
But there are some idiot fans out there who believe that the club only wants to exist to make money and to not to win prizes. Even if that crazy suggestion was the case, wouldn’t winning trophies bring in more sponsors and TV money anyway?
Gazidis added: “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.”
People seem not to be satisfied that we have signed a world class player in Lukas Podolski but I agree with Gazidis when he says we have signed a vital player: “Our fans will be able to see him compete at the Euros and see what a very good player he is. 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 and that was a good early addition for us.”
It’s interesting that he doesn’t mention Podolski playing as a partner to Robin van Persie, and when the Dutchman’s contract comes up, it sounds as if a decision has already been taken. I do hope I’m wrong and that RvP stays but I'm not confident.
Will we sign any more players before the EUROs? Time will tell, certainly Gazidis seems to hope so. “I think the way that the window will pan out is with some activity before the Euros, particularly with respect to the European players who are playing, the quieter period while the Euros are actually taking place and then a period of activity afterwards. We always try and conduct our activity as early as we can, everybody wants to do that. But I would say an even bigger overriding priority is to make sure that we get the right pieces in place.
“The key for us is not the volume of signings we might make but that the signings we make add something to the squad. That is something Arsène thinks extremely carefully about and for all of the pressure he is placed under, he tends to make good decisions. I do think it is an opening of a new chapter, yes.”
Time will tell if we end up chasing signings on August 31 again as last summer. We have to hope that Arsene Wenger, Gazidis, Chief Scout Steve Rowley and everyone else that is involved in the summer’s business will get things sorted sooner rather than later.
But whatever happens, we have to stick together and celebrate what we have rather than lament what we don’t.