• CEO claims long-serving boss' judgement is still final, but he is now supported by a number of experts.
  • Gazidis refutes claims that the Gunners attempted to offload Mustafi during the summer window.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis insists that Arsene Wenger still has the final word on the club's transfer business, although admits that the long-serving Frenchman is being increasingly supported by a "number of experts".

The Gunners have taken a far more statistically-driven approach to their transfer scheme since Stan Kroenke purchased a majority shareholding in the club and Wenger was expected to cede more ground in that regard over the summer.

However, he was clearly resistant to well-documented plans to install a director of football and reportedly sought to retain complete control of that side of the job as a condition of his two-year contract extension, instead agreeing to far more low-key changes to his backroom staff.

One of the manager's key long-term allies - transfer fixer Dick Law - also stood down at the end of September to return to the United States for family reasons after a window in which Arsenal broke their transfer record with the £46.5m ($61.4m) addition of French striker Alexandre Lacazette but made just one other signing in Sead Kolasinac, who joined from Schalke on a free. They also failed in their long-running pursuit of AS Monaco midfielder Thomas Lemar.

Addressing the issue of transfer policy during a typically feisty Arsenal annual general meeting (AGM) held at The Emirates Stadium on Thursday (26 October), Gazidis claimed that the FA Cup holders still put faith in Wenger's assessment of players but are gradually introducing more of an analytical operation.

"When it comes to a assessing and choosing players, all successful teams have a final decision maker," he said, per "In our case we rely on Arsene's judgement but he is increasingly supported by a number of experts."

Arsenal are said to be searching for a replacement for Law, who carried out many of the duties that would usually fall under the remit of a director of football. Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars has been linked with a return to his former club, while reports from Spain suggest that former Barcelona and Nike executive Raul Sanllehi has agreed a deal to work alongside Wenger and Gazidis as director of operations.

Arsenal eventually managed to trim their bloated squad over the summer by sanctioning the exits of several fringe players. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was sold to Liverpool after making it clear that he wished to pursue a fresh start elsewhere, although Gazidis denies that they actively attempted to sell £35m-rated centre-back Shkodran Mustafi following interest from Inter Milan.

"Mr Davis' assertion that we tried to offload Mustafi is simply not the case," he said.

On the decision not to sell contract rebels Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez and therefore risk losing them for nothing when their respective deals expire in June 2018, the former Major League Soccer (MLS) deputy commissioner suggested there had been a shift in strategy since the unpopular sale of Robin van Persie to Manchester United back in 2012.

"Only those in the room really know what is going on," he said. "That leads to public criticism often based on inaccurate information. Those on the outside don't know the complaints.

"Probably the most vocal criticism at an AGM was when we transferred Van Persie... We've taken a different tack this summer. The decisions on Alexis and Mesut Ozil certainly don't fit the narrative we put money first."

There was more than an inevitable whiff of mutiny in the air at Arsenal's latest AGM, with the meeting closed to a round of boos and a slow hand clap after just a handful of questions from the floor that frustrated fans felt were not answered sufficiently. The fact that Stan Kroenke did not speak at all was also an enormous bone of contention for those in attendance.

"Not on the agenda," said chairman Sir Chips Keswick, who was accused of arrogance. "Read the Daily Telegraph today and you'll find out."

Perhaps the biggest indication of that unhappiness came when resolutions to re-elect Keswick and director Josh Kroenke to the board were voted down by shareholders. That forced two lengthy poll votes, although proxy votes from Stan Kroenke and minority owner Alisher Usmanov - worth 97% - meant the pair survived.

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger has been reluctant to relinquish control of Arsenal's transfer business