I thought it was fitting this week not to examine yestereve’s game against Ukrainian titans Vorskla Poltava, but to focus on one man. One giant man. One enormous, towering figure, who more than any other, has transformed Arsenal, lifting us from obscure, small town part-timers into the top six club every farmer’s team thinks they can scalp.
Some say David Danskin, our first captain, should stand atop Arsenal’s Pantheon. There is a strong argument that Mr. Herbert Chapman laid the foundations for the modern club, and therefore should be revered. Mr. Henry Norris, devious and devoted Chairman for fifteen years, moved the club to Highbury and ensured that Middlesex’s Tottenham Hotspur remained in the Second Division after World War I.
Windsorists hold that the man who held sway over the club between 1996 and 2018, delivering multiple trophies, should bear the title of Mr. Arsenal. In terms of players, we can conjure legions of players from glories past.
But not I. Let us stand, shoulder to shoulder, and salute the passing of a footballing God, an immortal, pristine figure. Lord Jesus said, “No one is good but God alone,” but he had not yet met Mr. Ivan Gazidis.
Mr. Wicky’s Encyclopaedia strangely does not give any further details about Mr. Gazidis’s contributions to Arsenal, but I have used my extensive contacts within the club to give you just ten of his contributions to our great club.
10. Signing off on the transfer of Andrew Saint (a.k.a. ANDRE SANTOS) from Fenerbahce
Some say his lack of pace, his beer belly, his poor positioning, and the way he swapped shirts with Robin van Persie at half-time during a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United made him one of the worst purchases of the Gazidis era, but he proved everyone wrong with his astonishing non-overlapping runs, his dynamic head-scratching and his admirable insistence on being as generally un-Brazilian as possible.
9. Doing nothing to improve the experience of attending matches at The Emirates
One of the things this god amongst men excelled at was pretending to listen to fans. He remained resolute in his stance of not caring at all about queues for lavatories, pies, and just about everything else, and the pricing policy remains bracingly expensive, ensuring that may local working people, who I think we can all agree have served their purpose by supporting the club in the 123 lean years before the Gazidis era.
8. Insisting on air fresheners in the staff lavatories
We hear that just four years after receiving a number of emails about the rancid stench coming from the staff loos at London Colney and indeed at The Emirates, he insisted that air fresheners (“Neutradol, ideally”) be supplied to nullify the pong.
7. Boldly insisting on not tying down key players to long-term contracts
This ensured that bit part players like Cesc Fàbregas were purged from the club. Gazidis also insisted on Arsenal continuing our charitable good deeds by not asking reasonable sums for the transfer of players.
6. New shelves for printer and photocopier paper
It was a hallowed day when Ivan the visionary insisted that the photocopiers and printers all had shelves installed nearby so that nobody had to walk to the stationery cupboards on the second floor every time they need to refill.
5. Asking the staff which head polish he should use
We have all seen daylight bounce and shimmer off Ivan’s ovoid cranium, giving him his rightful halo. In an email from 2010, he asks everyone for their tips on how to ensure maximum shine. Nicki from accounts suggested Vaseline applied with an electric car polisher and he has stuck rigorously to that regime ever since.
4. Introducing a herbal tea option in the kitchens
Following a two-year consultation on hot and cold drink provision Ivan bravely signed off on the decision to make a range of herbal and fruit teas in the staff kitchens.
3. Working on a virtually pro bono basis
Considering his status as what the Japanese call “heavenly sovereign”, we should have been very grateful for his kind decision to only take £2.62 million in salary every year. The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust often attempted to top up this salary to a figure more befitting someone of Ivan’s magisterial status, via charitable donations and so on but these attempts were rebuffed.
2. New staplers
They arrived in April 2018, a fleet of magnificent Bostitch B8 Impulse 45 No-Jam Electric Staplers, one for each bank of desks, and they have transformed office life at Arsenal. Perhaps Ivan’s lasting legacy will be the ease with which up to 45 pieces of paper can be connected together.
Like Mary Poppins he arrived, with the wind in the east, a magical nanny with not only authority but also gentleness and kindness. And like Mary Poppins he leaves, hoisting his umbrella made of four million Euros, and flies off to Milan, leaving thousands of bereft Arsenal fans clutching kerchiefs to mouths, tears streaming down their faces, utterly unsure of how we will manage without Ivan.