Gazidis can help steer Arsenal back on course

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta    

It has been another season of frustration and disappointment for Arsenal fans. The Gunners will finish fourth in the league and crashed out in the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and Champions League.

But during another trophy-less season for Arsene Wenger’s team, changes have been occurring behind-the-scenes at the north London club. A takeover bid by American sports tycoon Stan Kroenke appears to be drawing ever nearer and with the arrival of a new face to help run the club, Arsenal fans will be hoping for a much needed lift next season.

Back on January 1st, 44-year-old Ivan Gazidis was brought in as the new chief executive of the club, following the departures of vice-chairman, David Dein, and managing director, Keith Edelman.

For the past decade, Gazidis – an Oxford law graduate – worked for the Major League Soccer (MLS) in America. In 1994 he was part of the founding management team of the league, and in 2001, became deputy commissioner – second only to commissioner, Don Garber.

Those who have witnessed what Gazidis has achieved in America will have little doubt that Arsenal have secured the services of a young, ambitious chief executive whose credentials show a great deal of promise.

His massively influential work the States included steering a near-bankrupt MLS to financial stability as well as hugely increasing the league’s income from sponsorship and TV deals. From being a ten-club league in 2002, its steady growth means that in 2011 it will expand to 18 teams.

Gazidis was also partly responsible for a series of rule changes within the American league. Before 1999, all MLS matches were played with a countdown clock, which was stopped when the ball went out of play, rather than the standard progressive clock. Matches used to finish when the clock got to zero rather than when the referee blew his whistle.

Another ‘American gimmick’ that has since been discontinued was a ‘shootout’ to decide matches which finished as draws. They consisted of best-of-five contests where a player was placed 35-yards from goal with five seconds to put the ball past the opposing goalkeeper.

All the above were abolished as it was decided by Gazidis and his team that they had alienated some traditional soccer fans while also failing to draw new American fans as had been hoped.

Arsenal’s new chief executive joined the club half-way though this season, but Gazidis believes this was beneficial to him, and his vast experience of negotiating deals for players was a crucial factor in securing the services of Andrey Arshavin.

“I had to hit the ground running”, he told The Telegraph.

“I came right at the start of the transfer window, and while it wasn’t a challenge, in a sense it was something I had never done before. But certainly it was important for us to conclude the signing of Arshavin. I needed to push that over the finish line.”

Speaking recently to the media about Arsenal’s failure to land any silverware for the fourth consecutive season and finishing fourth in the league, he stressed the importance of improving next season.

“I am not happy where we ended up but I am pleased we are disappointed by it,” he said.

“So why aren’t we feeling great about it? The answer is because we have higher expectations. But this is not a situation where we should be over-reactive and feel that we are in crisis.”

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