We back Arsene Wenger all the way, says Arsenal CEO Gazidis
No one is more frustrated by empty trophy cabinet than Arsene – but there's no lack of ambition
ARSENAL chief executive Ivan Gazidis has scotched any suggestions that the Arsenal board is unhappy with its manager, using an interview with The Daily Telegraph to praise Arsene Wenger unreservedly. He hopes the Frenchman will remain in his position for many more years to come.
"It's not a sense of sentimentalism, not a reward for services," said Gazidis, "it's a belief that we have an incredible manager who loves this club and is the best man to lead us forward."
The 62-year-old Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996 at a time when the club had lost its way. A culture of heavy drinking prevailed in the dressing-room and the spectre of George Graham, sacked in 1995 for accepting illegal transfer payments, still hung over the club.
In his first season Wenger transformed Arsenal, stamping out the drinking and introducing such radical concepts as healthy eating and osteopathy.
Success soon followed with Arsenal winning a league and cup double in 1998, and repeating the feat in 2002. In the 2003-04 season the Gunners not only won the title again but became the first top-flight club in England to go through the season unbeaten since Preston North End in 1888.
But the trophies have dried up since 2005, the year Arsenal beat Manchester United to win the FA Cup, and in recent seasons Wenger has seen some of his star names – among them Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie – leave for pastures new. Last season, for the first time in his Arsenal career, Wenger faced calls for his dismissal from a section of the club's fans.
But that appears to be the last thing on the mind of Gazidis who told the Telegraph that Wenger, whose current contract expires at the end of the 2013-14 season, should continue to lead the club for the foreseeable future.
"The values that Arsene has brought to the club together with the values that the club had before Arsene are what will inform us and give us the framework as to who might take over from him in the longer term," said Gazidis. "He is written into our DNA."
And Gazidis had a message for those Arsenal fans who claim Wenger has scaled down the club's ambitions from challenging for the league title to ensuring they finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.
"I know we haven't won trophies in recent years," said the chief executive. "There's no one here that doesn't feel the pain of not being able to do that [more than Wenger]... We get accused of a lack of ambition or complacency because apparently the board are only interested in the top four. That is absolute rubbish. To me, this is the most ambitious football club I know."
Gazidis declared he was "really confident about the direction that the club is heading" and in Wenger they have the best man at the helm. "I feel he can keep going for a long time. He's in fantastic shape and he's as driven as he's ever been and excited as ever."