Ivan Gazidis took to the stage yesterday in an odd press conference. He didn’t really give much information away when it came to specifics, but he did give a lot away about the thinking behind moving Wenger on now, rather than at the end of the season.
Here are the topline points he tried to deliver.
1. Arsenal moved Wenger on
There is no doubt that the move to find a new manager was sparked by the club, not the manager. The resignation was the nice way out. Reality is, Wenger could have taken us down two divisions and still not moved on voluntarily. Ivan was keen to impress this without saying anything. When asked about whether it was a mutual decision, he said, ‘I’m not here to talk about any private discussions.’
This part of the press conference was to tell the world he runs Arsenal football club moving forward.
2. The reasoning behind now
‘Our players, staff and fans are behind this great man and we will give him the send-off he deserves.’
Quite a simple one here. Ivan is telling the fans that nothing was saving him this summer, not even a Europa League win. He could see how the season was going to pan out, he could see the protests, the empty stadiums, the banners, so he stepped in to make sure Wenger’s last few games were special.
Parting company now allows the fans to pay their respects, it forces the players to buck up their ideas and try and win the Europa League, and it gives the club time to plan an immense last game for Wenger. Very smart, something we mentioned last year.
3. The reasoning behind now pt II
“We’ll have a process around that which begins today. I want to keep that process in house. In accordance with Arsenal values and out of respect for this man, we haven’t had any discussions today regarding that. I don’t underestimate the challenge of that. You don’t find a replacement for Arsene Wenger, you find a new path forward.”
The club wanted to start talking to prospective managers right this second, and they didn’t want Wenger to have to deal with questions about the rumours. You can’t talk to Allegri in private, it’d be classless of Arsenal to start doing that before Wenger was told of his future. From what I’ve been told, talks really haven’t started yet, how true that is, we’ll never know, but the public narrative is they want to start the process now. Again, a good move, and very thoughtful.
4. We have the people to make the next move work
“I doubt there is a more experienced group in handling coaching changes but having said all of that, this is a very unique situation and none of us have been through a coaching change, a managerial change that’s been like this. I recognise the size of the challenge but I think we have the resources, the people and the know how to make the best choice for the future of this football club.”
This part of the story perhaps leans into the ‘why’ of last season. I think Ivan is admitting he wasn’t prepared, so he’s basically spent this season getting his ducks in order to make the move. I’m not sure changing manager would have been disastrous last season, I just think most modern managers don’t want to do everything. Ivan let the deal for Wenger roll last season, then as soon as the window shut, he started making moves. Now we’re in a great position to advance our new agenda.
Also worth noting this, expect a lot of additions to the coaching staff. Wenger going sparks the end of his trusted lieutenants. Peyton, Primorac, Colbert… they’ll all be moving on and I’m sure we have been eyeing up some of the sharpest coaches in Europe to replace them. There will be an all-out progress assault on the club this summer, no doubt about that.
5. We are not hiring a king, we’re hiring a coach
“We have to go through that process. There is another value which I didn’t talk about which is young players. Our academy teams are doing extremely well. Under the radar we’ve got a lot of players coming through into our first team. Not just ones that you already know about, but the next generation as well. So that value of giving youth a chance is also very important to the football club. I think we’ve got to be open-minded and also brave in the decision. When Arsene was appointed, I don’t think he was on many people’s radar screens. And that doesn’t mean that we have to make an another appointment that not everybody is thinking about and talking about. But it does mean we need to be bold in the appointment and get the person that we believe is the right person.”
I think this section is very important, and it’s one I’ve spoken about at length when we talk about new managers. There are tiers to the types of coaches you can sign. The bigger the reputation, the more expensive they are, the more people they tend to bring with them, the more disruption they bring to the infrastructure.
Note this: The most important thing about the new coach is fitting into a structure that is controlled by the CEO. Call that weak, call that lacking ambition, but the simple reality is, we have suffered immensely from a manager who controls everything.
The club is clearly moving to a situation where power is decentralized among specialists. Expect to see that built out. Sven looks after player recruitment, Raul makes the business happens, the manager looks after the playing side of things. All work together to drive the club forward.
Allegri looks like the perfect name, but moving to Arsenal would be a step-down. He’s used to working in a very rigid structure (and you do so, because it’s Juve), but he might demand 20 of his people come with him if he moves to Arsenal, he might demand control of buying players, he might have an outsized ego because he feels he’s bigger than Arsenal.
We might look at a tier 2 manager. Someone who is at a smaller club, but has demonstrated big thinking, flexible approach, and the ability to coach young players. It’s hard to think of a manager better suited than Jardim. Arsenal would be a huge step up for him, so the club could maintain control of him, and he’d be comfortable working in a setup like the one we now have. He works with young players, he can play defence or attack, and he has a vision of how the game should be played.
Then you have the tier three managers. The balls out, ‘let’s see where this goes’ types of names. You’d be looking at Thierry, Vieira, Arteta and Nagelsmann in this category. Each have their unique special skill which could work out incredibly, each come with very big risks. I’m not sure Arsenal are settled enough to go this direction, but you never know, the LA Rams did exactly that last season and it worked out really well.
Also worth noting that sometimes it’s good to have a placeholder manager for a year. Someone who can lay the foundations, someone the players trust, someone the fans will get behind because they’re part of the club fabric, this move is one the club are interested in, but it’d be gutsy and hard to justify to a media who are already bleating on about Brendan Rodgers (Shut it Merson). I know that sounds like a weak worry, but look at how much shit the press gave Pep G, the greatest coach in the world, because he endangered the British press’s notion of how the game has to be played to win in the Premier League. A new coach might not be able to hack that.
So all in all, Ivan Gazidis has made the right decision. He’s taken control, he’s put his neck on the line and he’s done it with as much class as you can to a manager of 22 years.
I’ll save my wrap up post for Wenger for another day, but look, I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have witnessed his brand of football over the years. He’s a good guy, he loves the club, he just held on to the position far too long. The rest of the season is about celebrating his life’s work. The season is written off now, it doesn’t matter if we lose every single game. The #WengerOut battle is won, it’s taken ten years, but now the focus is what’s next. Let’s give him the send off he deserves. #MerciWenger
I couldn’t be happier. This blog was never meant to be a platform for moving Wenger on, it was always supposed to be one for exploring the best bits of Arsenal through the lens of a fan. Moving forward, nothing changes. We’ll still push on the club to do what’s right, we’ll still have a good old moan, but the new remit is about giving the new man a chance and making sure we all get back to being a united fan base who loves the Arsenal.
Remember, like moving to The Emirates, it doesn’t matter how bad things get, Wenger leaving is always going to be the best decision for Arsenal football club.
I’m so emotional about all this… cannot believe it happened. When I was in London! What a day.
Right, see you in the comments. Big love to you all! x
P.S. Here’s some of me on Bleacher Report, and below is me with Dan from Ballstreet with my hair full on holiday mode.