Thursday, 7 June 2012

Gazidis says we don't have to sell RVP -Fabregas' disgraceful behavior exposed

Morning Gooners.

Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis held his Question and Answer session with supporters groups last night. A great event for all those with an interest in how the club is run and its strategy going forward. First of all, fair play to Ivan for taking the time out to engage with supporters. No other CEO of a top four Premier League club bothers to engage their fan base in this way and we should appreciate him taking time out of his schedule to talk to those interested enough to hear what he's got to say.

Going into these events like these I'm under no illusion that I will hear anything that I've not heard already. All the answers are well rehearsed, he's already done an interview with Arsenal Player published the night before the event where he answers nearly everything that was put to him tonight and can move so easily through the gears answering the questions put to him.

He told us half way through the session the questions aren't vetted. That may well be but not one of them did he not have an answer for. He's a master politician. He speaks for long periods without seeming to need to draw breath. In fact the answer to the first question must have lasted around 20 minutes!

So what did we learn? Tomorrow will much better than today. Scrap that. Next season will be much better than last. In short, he was promising the future will turn out better for Arsenal than for our competitors. The holy grail which is Financial Fair Play (FFP) should be seen as the moment when Arsenal will truly be able to compete with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea as well as our European rivals in Barcelona and Real Madrid.

He may well be right but I'm sorry we can't keep hoping that tomorrow will come when we're back on an even playing field with those we are competing against at the highest level. The club has two billionaire shareholders – something the CEO failed to mention at all – who could dip into their own pocket to allow us to compete with those paying the highest wages.

I don't expect us to go out and sign a player for £50m. That's not what we do. But why can't we pay our best players the wages they are due. That is one area where we can compete. Ivan admitted our wage
structure was wrong. We might have to pay out more to buy exceptional talent at a young age and put them on good money. But that doesn't mean we can't put clauses in their contracts based on what they achieve on the pitch. Winning trophies should be our aim, not finishing in the Champions League positions each season.

The question of whether Alisher Usmanov should be offered a place on the board was raised. Rightly or wrongly a section of our fan base believe he has something to offer our club but Gazidis was having none
of it, saying he believed our board needed harmony and not internal fighting. However that is exactly what we do need in my opinion – especially if it's for the good of the club. That's what we had when David Dein and Danny Fizsman were both directors. They might not have agreed all the time but certainly wanted what was best for the club.

One thing I thought he let himself down on was regarding Fanshare, the scheme set up by the Arsenal Supporters Trust to allow individual fans to own part of the club they love. With both Kroenke and Usmanov owning the majority of the club's shares, the market has dried up. That means that Fanshare have big difficulties in purchasing shares for their members.

I will declare an interest. I am a Fanshare member and love owning a piece of Arsenal. However without the support of the club the scheme will close. Gazidis said he is supportive of Fanshare but doesn't believe that fan ownership of the club is a critical issue. However engagement is.

I'm with the AST on this issue. I believe the club will be stronger with an engaged set of fans who own part of the club. The more people who own shares in Arsenal the more accountable the club has to be. I hope a compromise can be reached because it would be a real shame if Fanshare was forced to close and not look good on Stan Kroenke.

Of course the question about Robin van Persie's future was raised. Gazidis said he wasn't going to answer it saying he was "focused on pushing the club forward" while Robin was focused on the European Championships. Does that mean the club are focused on moving forward without Robin van Persie? It's anyone's guess what it means.

Gazidis said:
"No body wants the type of distraction we had last summer, I think we're all very conscious of that."
The CEO did say the club isn't in a position where it need to sell its best players, so hopefully even if Robin decides not to renew his contact we'll keep him to his final 12 months.

Talking about how last summer went, he said:
"It certainly wasn't smooth last summer, it was a really challenging situation. We lost important players, added to that we had the uncertainty of whether we were even going to be in the Champions League because of the qualifying games so there were a lot of moving pieces.
"Arsene has said he could write a book on the summer, I probably could as well. In the end I think there are two things you want to try and do for each summer transfer.
"First is to do your business whether it's in or out as early as possible. That's an absolute key. There is no football club who want to leave it until the last day and we certainly didn't want to do it last year and wouldn't want to do it again.
"At the same time in the complexities of the market that exist, you want to think about other priorities for us it's thinking about efficiency of spending because of the business model we operate under.
"We have to try and achieve that if players are leaving us and we also have to try and achieve value in terms of the players we bring in. That's a challenge and we never talk about this publicly, that's just not the way Arsenal Football Club conducts its business. But there is a story behind all of those things.
"The third thing which I would say is a priority, and probably a priority which out weighs even the first two of those is that you make the right decisions. So it's one thing making early decisions but it's also making the right decisions."
Let's hope that lots of lessons were learnt last summer because we don't want to go through that again. It was interesting to hear Gazidis says the board challenges the manager behind closed doors - which is positive to hear.

And the chief executive revealed that Cesc Fabregas wasn't committed to Arsenal last summer - as revealed on this blog when he refused to play for us at all during pre-season when he was fit.

Gazidis said:

"Me trying to sell you that selling Cesc Fabregas is a step forward for Arsenal - that's a pretty hard sell. From a technical perspective it clearly wasn't. But in terms of what we got out of Cesc and what we got out in terms of players who are committed this year and wanted to be here, those of the type of judgements you end up having to make and my goodness, those are so, so difficult." 
It should be remembered we didn't get Cesc's true market value because he would only sign for Barcelona and that pulled the price down, meaning we were unable to buy a world class replacement for him. Will I remember Cesc in a good way? Not after the way he treated the club last summer.

Personally I thought the format of last summer's question and answer session was better. We didn't have the flashy video with the low-lights of the season to look back on. The evening was more raw. Real questions were being asked by real fans. It was amazing how many of those who had “submitted” questions to be asked weren't there last night... Conspiracy theory? Me?

Anyway, all in all a good evening. And it was great to meet a number of really interesting people.

That's it for today. More tomorrow.
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