Arsenal’s summer of business has been conducted with levels of efficiency, decisiveness, ruthlessness and precision which have not been seen from the Gunners since the days of David Dein.
There is a renewed energy, enthusiasm and determination in the way which Arsenal seem to be going about their work this summer. The departure of Arsene Wenger as the club’s manager was always going to be the catalyst for change, something which had long been anticipated by many, not least by chief executive, Ivan Gazidis.
The Gunners’ CEO joined the Emirates club almost a decade ago, and has emerged rapidly from the shadows in recent months in light of Arsene Wenger’s departure. Gazidis took the role of chief executive in November 2008, with it expected that he would assume many of ex-vice-chairman David Dein’s responsibilities at the club.
Much of Arsene Wenger’s successes during his first decade at the helm of Arsenal were enabled through the Frenchman’s excellent operating relationship alongside Dein at the club.
There was a great understanding between the two men, which allowed Wenger to put his ideas into practice through Dein’s sharing of the manager’s revolutionary vision for the Gunners and English football.
When Wenger wanted to bring the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires to the club, Dein made sure that it happened.
Following the realisation of his departure from the Emirates in May, Wenger admitted that one of his biggest regrets from his 22-year tenure at the club was David Dein’s exit in 2007.
Whilst the subsequent failure to win another Premier League title during Wenger’s second decade as manager, following Dein’s departure, is by no means exact proof of the importance of a figure of Dein’s influence, it certainly suggests a correlation with success.
With Wenger departing the club at the end of last season, it was a monumental question on the minds of many as to who would assume the responsibility of bringing an effective transition into a new era, following the departure of a man who had virtually defined the modernity of his club.
In truth, Ivan Gazidis had already taken this responsibility comfortably in his stride some time before Wenger’s departure.
In November 2017, Sven Mislintat was brought in from Borussia Dortmund to be Arsenal’s new Head of Recruitment. That same month, Barcelona’s long-serving Director of Football, Raul Sanllehi, was brought to the Emirates as the Gunners’ new Head of Football Relations.
Six months prior to the departure of Wenger, Gazidis had already set about importing a new structure of world-class football minds to begin taking control of many of the areas of club management which had previously been within Wenger’s virtual autocracy.
Upon Wenger’s exit in May, it was Gazidis, together with Mislintat and Sanllehi, who formed a three-man committee which oversaw the appointment of new head coach Unai Emery as Wenger’s successor, crucially, however, not as manager.
Instead, Emery’s responsibilities lie almost exclusively within the realms of team management, not club management.
Whereas Wenger’s tenure had grown in such stature that the Frenchman eventually assumed virtual control over almost every aspect of Arsenal’s operations on and off the pitch as a club, the diluted role of head coach is set to enable Emery a greater sole focus on team matters.
As for the rest of the ample fields of business which a club of Arsenal’s stature must manage, there is now a clear and concise structure of expert individuals to handle off-field matters, which also includes recently appointed contract negotiator, Huss Fahmy.
At the head of the Mislintat-Sanllehi-Fahmy structure, and with a new lease of influence and role of stewardship, is CEO Gaizidis.
The successful manner with which this new structure can already be seen to operate is evident not only through the meticulously plotted and executed appointment of Emery as the new head coach, but also through the new wave of transfer activity which already makes Arsenal appear a more formidable team ahead of the upcoming season than has been the case for some time.
Transfer business has been conducted with remarkable efficiency, and it has addressed each of Arsenal’s defensive weaknesses with ruthless precision.
Following what has already been a greatly impressive summer overseeing all business in the post-Wenger transition ahead of next season, Ivan Gazidis has been linked with a shock move to assume a similar role at AC Milan.
The Serie A giants have endured a blight of off-field issues over the past year, with Financial Fair Play trouble and ownership problems posing a serious threat to their prospects for on-field success next term.
I Rossoneri have already been banished from European competition next season, having qualified for the Europa League, and it is apparently the consensus that a figure of Gazidis’ leadership is now required to steady the ship at the San Siro.
Whilst gaining the services of Gazidis would be a great boost to Milan’s hopes of overcoming their troubles, it would be Arsenal’s loss in at least equal measure.
The 53-year-old’s overseeing of the post-Wenger era may be in full swing, but it is still very early days, and much of the continued success of Arsenal’s new era seemingly hinges on Gazidis’ presence.
Unai Emery’s instant bond with Arsenal’s CEO appears set to breed a new incarnation of the Wenger-Dein leadership which yielded such great success for the Gunners, and it seems certain that the new phase depends with correlative importance on the Emery-Gazidis duo as Arsenal’s new two-pronged driving force.
During the press conference in May in which Gazidis took the responsibility of announcing Wenger’s departure, the CEO declared:
“In the coming weeks the world will see the unity and power of this great club and the people within it. It’s my ambition to make sure we honour and build upon that [Wenger’s] contribution.”
Gazidis has taken centre stage of the post-Wenger transition. Now, in the face of interest and a potentially high-paying offer from Milan, Arsenal’s chief executive must stand firm to the club which he has pledged his allegiance and deliver what he has promised.