Ivan Gazidis: Arsenal are ready for what comes next after Arsene Wenger quits
Arsenal set to start hunt for a new manager
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis insists the club has never been “better prepared” to deal with Arsene Wenger’s exit.
A surprise announcement on Friday morning confirmed Wenger would bring down the curtain on his near 22-year reign at the end of the current season.
Since then there has been an outpouring from the world of football paying tribute to his achievements during his time as Gunners boss.
Talk will soon move firmly onto who will take over from the 68-year-old when he departs in May, but Gazidis – who said no replacement had yet been lined up – believes everything is in place for a successful transition to the new incumbent.
“The decision had to happen at some point,” Gazidis said during a press conference at the Emirates Stadium.
“I don’t think the club has ever been better prepared for that decision. Now it is time to look forward and I think we can do that with confidence.
“Arsene often said his aim was to leave the club in a better position than when he found it. Well, we are in a better place today than we could have ever imagined 22 years ago.
“The foundations of this club have never been stronger and this gives me great confidence as we begin to chart the path ahead.”
Gazidis would not be drawn on the discussions that took place with Wenger that ultimately led to the decision to part ways at the end of the campaign.
Instead, he focused on praising Wenger’s achievements throughout his lengthy tenure at the club and said, in some ways, they are not seeking a ‘replacement’ for a man who gave so much to Arsenal.
“I have often said (replacing Wenger) is the biggest challenge we face,” he added.
“In the coming months the world will see the unity and power of this football club, and the people within it.
“We are not going to find a replacement for Arsene Wenger – we have to find a new path forward.”
Wenger moved to Highbury back in 1996 and delivered some of the best football the early Premier League had seen as he led Arsenal to three titles during his tenure.
The unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ season of 2003-04 will forever be remembered but that would deliver the last of those league crowns, as a fallow period followed.
Moving to the state-of-the-art Emirates Stadium tightened the purse strings as Arsenal were caught and surpassed by the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City – the newly-crowned champions a massive 33 points clear of the Gunners at the time of Wenger’s surprise announcement.
His position has come under intense scrutiny over the past 18 months due to repeated failings in the Premier League and Champions League.
Wenger has lifted the FA Cup in three of the last four seasons but that has not been enough to appease some supporters.
The club are set to compete against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-finals next week.
“After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season,” he said.
“I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years.
“I managed the club with full commitment and integrity. I want to thank the staff, the players, the directors and the fans who make this club so special.
“I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high. To all the Arsenal lovers, take care of the values of the club. My love and support forever.”
To all the Arsenal lovers, take care of the values of the club. My love and support forever Arsene Wenger
Majority shareholder Stan Kroenke also spoke glowingly of Wenger’s “unparalleled class” as former foes of his also had kind words.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United boss with whom he feuded over several titles, said he was “proud to have been a rival, a colleague and a friend to such a great man.”
Current United manager Jose Mourinho had several spats with Wenger during his time at Chelsea but said today he hopes Wenger will continue to manage elsewhere.
Other top managers including new Premier League champion Pep Guardiola and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp spoke warmly of Wenger, while Arsenal second-largest shareholder Alisher Usmanov also offered kind words to the outgoing boss.
“Today is a day of great sadness for Arsenal Football Club, as it announces the departure of a legendary and devoted manager. My long-held admiration for Arsene Wenger is no secret,” he told Press Association Sport.
Pat Rice, who served as Wenger’s assistant from his 1996 arrival to 2012 told the BBC his former boss would not retire, saying “football is his life”.
Plenty of former and current Arsenal players also paid their respects to a man many praised for their successful careers.
Ian Wright said that the Arsenal board “had a lot to answer for” and had “hung (Wenger) out for so many years with not much help.”
Several names are already being mooted as his ideal successor. Gazidis was not drawn on the names of any potential targets but did set out a list of credentials for the new man, adding: “It is important to me that we continue the football values that Arsene has instilled in the club.
“I want to see somebody who can continue that for our fans, and our fans want to see that.
“Somebody who will continue to play exciting, progressive football that gets people interested and excited in the games we play.”