The problems at Arsenal Football Club are not going to be solved with a strongly worded statement from the owner. The problems at Arsenal Football Club are endemic and only actions will fix them.
Amy Lawrence wrote an impassioned letter to Stan Kroenke asking that he make it clear what his intentions are for Arsenal. It’s well written, clear, and to the point. It’s also an argument that I have heard a number of times from every quarter of Arsenal supporters and something that I have long puzzled over. People want Stan Kroenke to speak, but what do they want him to say? And just as important, would you believe what he said? I wouldn’t. Because for me, when it comes to judging a man’s plans, I never listen to what they say, I look at what they have done and are doing.
I would personally love it if Kroenke were to give a full explanation of what happened over the last five years, what the plan is for the next five years, and how he plans to get there. But my lifetime’s experience dealing with the wealthy men (and women, rarely) who own sports teams in America has made me jaded about statements made by ownership.
For example, I have never once seen an owner make a revelatory statement about his team. They don’t stand up in front of a crowded room and say things like “none of this is Arsene Wenger’s fault, I’ve been secretly siphoning off the profits to buy multi-million dollar ranches in Colorado” or whatever fantasy statement that some folks imagine Kroenke will make. In fact, if anything, they make obfuscating statements. I remember the Seattle Supersonics owners talking about how they were “losing money” because the city of Seattle refused to use taxes to renovate Key Arena to provide more luxury boxes. They then sold the franchise for a huge profit and the new owners relocated the Sonics to Oklahoma.
Owners here also tend to speak in platitudes. The one about how they want to win is my favorite and it’s actually one we have already heard a number of times from Ivan Gazidis. “The business of football is about winning, we want to win, winning is good, we want to win trophies. Trophies trophies, win win win, rah rah.”
These platitudes cut across all forms of communication with owners. So much so that if Kroenke were to tell me “what he wants from Arsenal” I would be shocked if the statement had more substance than gossamer teardrops. “I want to grow Arsenal into the greatest club the world has ever seen by winning the Champions League, playing with a trademark Arsenal style, and doing so with a good mixture of homegrown players and exceptional talent recruited from all over the world.” Sounds nice but what does it really mean? It doesn’t mean anything unless there’s some action.
And that for me is the real problem with Arsenal. It’s not that there haven’t been enough intention clarifying statements, it’s that there haven’t been enough intention clarifying actions. Or actually, perhaps there have been, perhaps Kroenke’s actions up until this point have clarified his intentions.
That is to say, what, if anything, has Stan Kroenke actually done since taking over? Not much. In fact, his ownership has been marked by lack of action and I would suggest that’s the case because this is the plan. This. This treading water. That’s the plan. I don’t need Kroenke to blow smoke up my ass with some carefully worded statement about his intentions at Arsenal FC because he’s made it very clear that his intentions are to keep calm and carry on.
I’m not suggesting that Stan Kroenke take up the Chelsea model and start firing everyone and everything but there is no doubt that this club needs an injection of fresh ideas and competition at all levels. Fresh faces at the board level, people who understand the game and can keep Kroenke connected to the sport in a way that I don’t think he is right now. From some fresh board members you would get fresh ideas to help generate more revenue, and not more revenue from simply raising ticket prices or fleecing fans with three different kits and 6 different styles of lettering.
Arsenal also need fresh scouts to recruit top players instead of guys like Park, Chamakh, Gervinho, and Squillaci. That would give the squad fresh talent to challenge every player on Arsenal for their starting position: every player, even Jack Wilshere, should have legitimate competition for their position. And yes, Wenger should also be challenged — you can’t tell me that Arsenal losing the exact same way, time and again, hasn’t gotten stale.
So while I understand that people are dying for information from the club about what the plans are and where we are going, Silent Stan has already spoken volumes to me with his (in)actions. If he wants to send a real message, he should do it by building a world class team around Jack Wilshere. And if he wants to see what a world class team looks like, he can attend tomorrow’s match; Bayern Munich will gladly put on a demonstration.