Well he hasn’t built any roads or an aquaduct, and he certainly hasn’t brought peace. But as detailed in my last post, I don’t believe Stan Kroenke is going to be selling his stake in Arsenal anytime soon. So as we’re stuck with him, is a good or bad owner to have for Arsenal FC – or more specifically for its supporters, who are the reason the club exists in the first place? I stress that this is to do with ownership of Arsenal specifically, rather than any other sports clubs in the KSE stable.
I had my opinion anyway, but I did a Twitter poll to see what other fans thought:
That’s a hefty majority thinking he’s worse than average, with almost half thinking he could barely be worse. Which, when you think about it rationally, is a bit over the top.
This is all a matter of perspective and whatever he or any other owner did there would be supporters who didn’t like it. This is especially true at a club where expectations are so high. But let’s try and take a look at this in a reasonable way.
Stan Kroenke’s good points:
- Isn’t going to run the club into the ground by over-ambitious and unsustainable spending
- Doesn’t interfere in day to day running or in football matters
- Doesn’t have knee-jerk reactions to events or make changes on a whim
- Has provided both wage and transfer funds to the manager on request (as far as we know – certainly no evidence or even a hint from the manager that he hasn’t)
Stan Kroenke’s bad points:
- Priority is making money rather than winning trophies, so:
- won’t put any of his own money in to the club
- will only react to a downturn on the pitch if it affects the finances
- Has taken money out when he thought he could get away with it, and would have taken more if he hadn’t been challenged
- Sees supporters merely as consumers so has no affinity or empathy with them as individuals
In the current set up, where Kroenke has two-thirds of the shares rather than all of them, his bad traits on finance are slightly kept in check: he doesn’t put money in, but he can’t get away with taking it out either. This is how Arsenal has always been run; the club has always been self-financing and dividends (when they used to be paid) were minuscule, so a reasonable supporter can hardly complain about the principle. If there was the slightest evidence that he’s held money back and refused to spend what the manager wanted on either transfers or wages, that would be different. But there isn’t any evidence of that.
Kroenke and Wenger suit each other: neither wants wild speculative spending and for their own reasons both prefer to take a long view.
The problem is that Kroenke’s view is overwhelmingly about protecting his money. He might enjoy seeing his team win a trophy, but trying to win one always takes second place to money. This has made him, in the opinion of many, far too slow to do anything about changing the manager or forcing change on the manager. There are others in the club, right up to the Board, who want change, but Kroenke doesn’t. His priorities are not football-related.
However, the criticism that I and many other fans have is that the manager is not getting the best from the squad. So suppose Wenger had retired or gone to PSG in 2014, and a new man had come in, spent exactly the same amount on transfers and wages, and got the players to perform more consistently. No team is perfect and all the big clubs are likely to lose one or two matches per season that on paper they shouldn’t, but players of the Arsenal squad’s calibre shouldn’t lose to Watford, West Brom and Crystal Palace in the same season, or go three-down to Bournemouth before scraping a draw. Another manager may have prevented those sort of displays. With just a tiny bit more consistency there would have been a good chance of a title, particularly in 2016 when the rest of the big boys were in transition and Leicester stole in and took advantage. If that had happened (a fairly big ‘if’, I’ll grant you, but possible) Kroenke would be looked at much more favourably, despite doing nothing deliberately different. Then again, if Arsene had walked away in 2014 and Kroenke had gone for the cheap option of employing David Moyes or Steve McLaren, maybe even Tony Adams, leading to a much steeper decline than a drop to fifth, then he’d be even more unpopular.
So whose fault is Arsenal’s drop down the league, and poor performance in Europe? Wenger’s, or Kroenke for not sacking Wenger?
What I don’t understand is people who want Wenger to stay and Kroenke to go – what do they think that will achieve? How would Wenger produce better results under a different owner when he’s already got full control of the football and goes after the players he wants at the prices and wages he wants?
In summary, as things stand Kroenke is a middling owner. He’s neither helping nor hindering. He’s certainly no Oyston or Venkys. I’d score him a 4 or 5 out of 10. However, that’s under the current situation. If he does get his hands on the other third of the club he doesn’t own, I can see his tactics changing and him dropping to a 2 fairly quickly. To my mind that is a far bigger problem than Arsene signing any number of contract extensions.