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Ivan Gazidis: The Man That set Arsenal on the path to mediocrity and the Actual Reason Behind the Club’s Demise

You can blame the Kroenke’s for the demise of Arsenal in recent years and I suspect that few fans would disagree, mainly because of the ongoing mistrust of the club’s passionless owners but, there’s another person who deserves the lion’s share of the credit without absolving the KSE duo of their part, in the collapse of a football giant, Ivan Gazidis

Ivan Gazidis was a major obstacle to the club’s future success from the moment he worked his way into the Arsenal boardroom. He operated with almost a free hand due to Stan Kroenke’s inability to understand or run a high profile football club.

Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal
Image Obtained via Sempre Milan

The former club CEO wanted success but primarily for himself, for his profile and to increase his power base. He also wanted to cast off the imposing shadow of David Dein, but he essentially lacked two things, passion and instincts.

Dein, despite his faults, was a genuine football man who was known at the club to be the first one in and the last one out. He was present at every level, representing the board, cheering on the emerging talents from the academy. He even called his wife excitedly to inform her that he had just seen a young lad play like a Brazilian, that player was David Rocastle.

However, Gazidis was a number’s man, good for bringing in additional revenues, but no real sporting ambitions or affinity to the sporting side of the business. His background had been as the Deputy Commissioner for Major League Soccer (MLS) in America. Involved with strategic planning and business dealings in the league’s marketing arm.

At Arsenal, Ivan Gazidis undeniably raised revenues but he was seen as remote, awkward and unapproachable by many within the club, a round peg in a square hole as a source put it. The truth is he meddled, obstructed and made life difficult for Wenger and in the latter years, worked tirelessly to see him replaced with a marionette of his choosing but sadly for him, with his main rival within the club removed, it exposed the man, his method’s and lack of commitment towards the club.

Ivan Gazidis, Arsene Wenger, Arsenal
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

The Kroenke’s were duplicitous in the wasted years, they were guilty of presiding over failure, for allowing Arsenal to go into free fall and by failing to invest in the playing staff after moving to a new stadium. Behind the scenes, it was unravelling via a general lack of direction and leadership which created the infamous player contract chaos, which in turn led to the dreadful and highly costly Ozil extension.

With Sanchez available to the highest bidder, Arsenal threw their money and weight behind the German but that would be a grave mistake. Ramsey was allowed to leave for free which probably cost the club £28m and as a result, the club became a laughing stock. All presided over by Gazidis.

Yet, it was his deteriorating relationship with Wenger that caused maximum disruption and with each poor result, Gazidis disrespectfully applied the thumbscrews to the Frenchman from the shadows. Wenger needed to go and the Kroenke’s gave a green light to the Gazidis plan that was supposed to rescue the club under his leadership.

The next part is a bit foggy, but we’ll assume that the Kroenke’s became aware of the self-inflicted wounds and finally acted by moving on their inept CEO, who left to take up another post, thus making it look less like he’d been outed.

Gazidis encountered more problems after his highly publicised move to AC Milan, with three managers in 14 months whilst incurring a 5-0 defeat to Atalanta, the club’s joint heaviest defeat in their history. Coincidence? The last few years have seen an improvement but Gazidis has been less hands-on due to health issues which we’ll touch on later in the article.

Sven Mislintat, Arsenal
(Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images)

Even though Ivan Gazidis departed, there was more chaos to come at Arsenal. Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi conflicted over transfers, presumably because Raul couldn’t get the terms he preferred. Make if that what you will.

In the meantime, Unai Emery was employed as the scapegoat for a divided and dysfunctional dressing room. His inability to make his point to the players culminated with the worst ever performance in Europe against an average Chelsea in Baku.

Misintat was aggrieved by Edu’s appointment and subsequently left, with Raul hasty exit soon after. It seems the Kroenke’s had learned a valuable lesson but one that had cost them time, money and their reputation. They had been made to look incompetent which they were, their inexperience had been highlighted and they now had to start over to undo years of bad decisions, poor recruitment and investment, lack of success and underwhelming performances.

The new Arsenal regime faired no better initially, but at least Ivan Gazidis wasn’t there. The early transfers were just as bad as before with Willian and Luiz joining from the Chelsea retirement home. Today, the club seem to have agreed on a plan that potentially may yield fruit, but only after they appointed another manager and embarked on another behind the scenes reboot.

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This blog may appear in bad taste because of the health issues faced by Ivan Gazidis, so let me state for the record that no one wishes him ill because of his time and actions at Arsenal, but the truth is that he was a major player in the club’s downfall and as such should be held accountable.

Nothing can be done, of course, it’s all recent history but the Kroenke’s aren’t alone in their negligence. Former Gunner Stewart Robson said that the former CEO was a “failure” at the club and often paid oversized fees for “average” players. Club legend Ian Wright said after his exit in 2018:

“He feels this is the time to leave when really this is the time they needed a CEO to steer the ship.”

“I’m quite pleased he’s gone because it shows the person he is, that’s not the kind of person we need at Arsenal.”

“We need someone to fight for the fans and someone who can get us back to where we want to be.”

Follow ArseDevils to know more about Arsenal.

The Highbury Flyer
Anti Kroenke , anti Gazidis but always a gooner. Still wishes he could watch from the stands at the Highbury library.

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