Ivan Gazidis: Arsenal can take on best in world... one day
But first there's tomorrow's derby against Spurs – and it's a must-win game for the Gunners
ARSENAL have what it takes to compete with the best in the world. That's the message from the Gunners' chief executive Ivan Gazidis on the eve of the north London derby.
Gazidis will be hoping the club backs up his words on Saturday against Tottenham, otherwise more Arsenal fans will hold him responsible for the Gunners worst start to a campaign in the Premier League era.
A solitary point separates the two rivals, with Spurs at seventh on 17 and Arsenal at eighth on 16, and the Lilywhites' visit to the Emirates is a must-win game for the Gunners.
With just one victory from their last four Premier League outings, Arsenal can't afford another slip-up if they harbour ambitions of finishing in the top four and qualifying for next season's Champions League. That, in the eyes of many Arsenal fans, appears to be the extent of the club's ambitions this season, rather than a desire to win the title they last lifted in 2003-04.
In an interview with BBC Sport, Gazidis urged fans to be patient, promising the Arsenal faithful that the good times will soon return to the Emirates. "As we look to the next two, three years we will have an outstanding platform on which to compete with any club in the world," explained Gazidis.
Depressing though it may be for fans, Gazidis sees Arsenal as a business first and a football club second, and in that respect his model appears to be working.
Since moving to the Emirates from the smaller Highbury stadium in 2006, Arsenal have increased their turnover by £65 million to £243m. Good news, exclaimed Gazidis, who added: "Now we are in that stadium, the first part of our vision has been realised. Now we are at the stage where some of the commercial deals that were tied into the construction of the stadium, and enabled us to take that first big step, will be renegotiated.
"When that happens, we will take the second big step forward and that will be comparable in magnitude to moving to the stadium itself." One of those deals will be for shirt sponsorship, which currently earns the Gunners just £5.5m a season, a fraction of the £28m Manchester United rake in from a similar deal with Chevrolet.
Admitting it is a "challenging project", Gazidis nonetheless assured Arsenal fans that when the commercial deals begin to bear fruit, "we will have catapulted ourselves into the elite clubs on the European scale and that, for us, has been what the last 10 years has been about."
Certainly from an Arsenal fan's point of view, the last ten years haven't been about trophies. It's now nearly eight years since the Gunners last got their hands on some silverware, and their chances of winning the Premier League could be dealt a mortal blow tomorrow if they lose to Tottenham and Manchester United win away at lowly Norwich.
That would leave 14 points between Arsenal and United - too big a gap to bridge even for a "visionary" like Gazidis.