Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis made it clear that manager Arsene Wenger would have to be a ‘catalyst for change’ in 2017 as he signed a two-year deal. And 12 months later, his words have been embraced as the backroom staff and playing squad have been overhauled.
The Gunners will be unrecognisable next season given how many of Wenger’s appointed staff are following the Frenchman out the exit door. Arsenal haven’t been afraid to sell a number of their long-serving players either and could make a big decision on a fan-favourite academy graduate which would further highlight how this is a forward-thinking side no longer stuck on sentiment.
Behind the scenes, the manager’s responsibility has diminished by the appointment of a Head of Recruitment (Sven Mislintat from Borussia Dortmund) a Head of Football Relations (Raul Sanllehi from Barcelona) and a chief contract negotiator (Huss Fahmy from Team Sky).
No longer are below-par players being given contracts they barely deserve, and this is evident from Arsenal’s treatment of Jack Wilshere. The English international has a long list of injury problems, so Arsenal want his next deal to be incentivised on appearances and are happy to let him leave for nothing if he won’t agree to their terms. It’s a bold move.
Even Arsene Wenger was forced out of the club, despite looking untouchable for so many years as manager. He admitted the decision to step down as manager this summer wasn’t when he wants to leave Arsenal, emphasising how the backroom staff are now thinking ahead to the future rather than being stuck on sentiment.
Arsenal finished outside of the top-four for a second consecutive season under Wenger and had their worst-ever campaign under the Frenchman – 6th in the Premier League with 63 points from 38 games, out of the FA Cup in the third round, lost in the EFL Cup final, lost in the Europa League semi-finals.
To finish 37 points behind champions Manchester City isn’t acceptable for Arsenal and now they’re replacing their long-serving manager to try to correct the problems of last season. Assistant manager Steve Bould has an uncertain future, while Boro Primorac, head of medical Colin Lewin, first-team coach Neil Banfield, goalkeeper coach Gerry Peyton, fitness coach Tony Colbert and equipment manager Paul Johnson have all left.
And when looking at all the players Arsenal have let go in the last year, it’s clear they’re no longer tolerating mediocrity or unhappy players across the board.
Last summer, Wojciech Szczesny, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were sold to Juventus, West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool respectively. Francis Coquelin, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud were sold to Valencia, Everton and Chelsea in January.
Per Mertesacker is hanging up his boots to become Arsenal’s Head of Academy while Santi Cazorla was recently released, and to have lost so many long-serving players in such a short space of time highlights what direction Arsenal are going on in under Gazidis. Supporters should be excited at what the future holds.