Tag Archives: Silent Stan

Nasri, the new Zidanebayor

Same old Nasri, always bleating: same old Kroenke, slow investing

Samir Nasri, a disgruntled former Arsenal player who was sold at a time of great turbulence within the club, yesterday publicly claimed that he didn’t want to leave Arsenal, that he loves Arsene Wenger, and that new owner Stan Kroenke, specifically, forced his move through in order to get the cash. It is a bumptious statement which, frankly, doesn’t hold water even under the slightest of scrutiny.

Here is a simple bulleted list proving that Samir Nasri is a liar:

It’s pretty clear that Nasri initially wanted to go to Man U. He was drawn by the allure of titles and a pay rise. But when Patrice Evra started talking about all the hard work Nasri would have to put in and the demands on Man U players, Nasri’s bollocks sucked back up inside his body and he looked around for another team to take him.

Man City offered this grifter the perfect pace to hide. He would be well compensated, he would probably win trophies, and he wouldn’t have to carry a team (like at Arsenal) nor be expected to even really perform admirably. I feel confident in that claim because judging by Mancini’s public statements about Nasri’s training habits (that he’s a 50% trainer) it’s true.

In fact, I would go one step further and say that this whole Nasri statement smells like cover for the pressure Mancini is putting him under. Nasri has been a failure at Man City so it’s no coincidence that Nasri says Wenger was the best manager he ever trained under, that he didn’t leave for the money, and that someone else forced the sale through. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

What is the sound of one Stan talking?

But let’s just say for a minute that Stan Kroenke did force the sale through. Well, frankly, that just makes Kroenke a genius. He got £24m for a player who played a grand total of 6 months of good football, and who clearly didn’t want to play for Arsenal any more.

Albeit a year late, that £24m was earmarked and used to bring in Santi Cazorla. Cazorla is Arsenal’s first ready-made star signing since Dennis Bergkamp and a player who (all joking aside yesterday about him being the next Ronaldo) has been one of the best players in the Premier League all season.

And we have Samir Nasri’s greed to thank for that. So, thanks Nasri!

 

But in all seriousness, Cazorla seems like a bellwether signing to me. I could be wrong but a shift in transfer policy seems afoot at Arsenal and even Arsene Wenger is slyly having a dig at the old board and their parsimony with his statement that “now” there will be transfer funds available. I don’t think that means Kroenke is going to pour billions of pounds into the club but I do suspect that Kroenke’s goal is to build a stronger club through sustainable investing for the future. And that long haul investing started with the stabilization of the squad and settling the ownership issue two years ago.

Sorry to disappoint those who want a sugar-daddy owner (or really just the promise of a sugar daddy) but I suspect that Kroenke is in this for the long, long, long haul. Kroenke is not selling any time soon (Usmanov has offered to make him a tidy profit) and probably thinks of this investment as his legacy. As in “leave Arsenal to my kids” type of legacy. Is it any coincidence that rumors abound he will appoint his sports-savvy son to the board next year?

I don”t think so.

Qq

What is the sound of one Stan talking?

Silent Stan or Quiescent Stan?

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.

Qq

When Kroenke met Wenger

Speculating on Kroenke’s intentions with Arsenal

Because I’m an American, who writes about English football, I’ve been asked many times this week for my opinion on Stan Kroenke’s intentions with Arsenal and to put it as succinctly as possible, my opinion is that Kroenke loves two things; sports and property development.

Kroenke owns a veritable cornucopia of sports franchises in the United States and London. Sticking with just the top tier teams, in 2000 he bought the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche and in the last two years has purchased the Arsenal and the St. Louis Rams. He also has a life-long love of baseball and is reportedly one of the finalists in Major League Baseball’s search for new owners for the LA Dodgers.

Kroenke also owns the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer and a number of teams who play sports like Lacrosse.

His record with these clubs in terms of trophies and investment is not that bad. In America, clubs are franchises. This means that there is profit sharing and since there is no relegation, or disincentive, there is a history of deadbeat owners who will field the minimum team required by league rules and reap the benefits of profit sharing. To an extent this is less possible these days but it still happens.

I only include that bit about deadbeats to say that in a system where someone could get away with being a deadbeat owner, Kroenke’s sports teams are not those kinds of clubs. In the ten+ years that Kroenke has owned the team The Nuggets made significant moves and investments in order to try to win an NBA title. Similarly, the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in the season that Kroenke purchased the team and have since been in the playoffs most years.

Some people will point to the St. Louis Rams as a Kroenke cautionary tale because their last 5 years have been, well, terrible. In four of the last five seasons the Rams have averaged a record of just 2 wins and 14 losses. The one season where they did “well” they went 7-9.

But blaming Kroenke for the Rams’ terrible last five years is somewhat unfair. He was part of an ownership group up until this year. Judge him from here on out, now he’s sole owner and as such can take sole blame or credit.

His American soccer team, the Colorado Rapids, despite winning the MLS Cup in 2010 have been up and down in terms of performances on the pitch. They do not play beautiful football (WARNING: graphic leg-breaking video) and for the two years prior to winning the MLS Cup did not even qualify for any of the three cup competitions that MLS teams have a shot at. It’s worth noting that unlike European football leagues there is no trophy given to the team with the best record at the end of the season. Instead, there’s a playoff system much like the way Gridiron football works.

What the Colorado Rapids have done exceptionally well is develop the property around their stadium (Dick’s Sporting Goods Park) and fill the stadium and the surrounding complex with a wide variety of events.  The stadium itself is a great venue for soccer. Custom built as a soccer stadium and with natural grass (which is actually somewhat rare in Major League Soccer) it has hosted the MLS All-Star game and World Cup qualifiers. Surrounding the stadium are youth soccer fields, retail stores, and all manner of modern development designed to maximize property value.

This development idea follows on work that Kroenke’s group had done prior with developing the land and stadium now referred to as the Pepsi Center. It’s important to note that the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets, Avalanche, and Kroenke’s lacrosse team (the Mammoth) all play, was completed in 1999. The year before he bought all those franchises. It’s also important to note that what Kroenke does is then fill the stadium with all manner of events, everything from Lacrosse matches to the Democratic National Convention.

One wrinkle here is that in order to buy the St. Louis Rams, Kroenke had to promise to transfer ownership of the Nuggets and the Avalanche to his son. He did that, but retained ownership of the Pepsi Center.

Those are the facts of Kroenke’s ownership in sports franchises in the USA. And now we pass from facts into speculation. This is about to get complicated but hold on and see if you follow me.

Kroenke’s NFL team, The Rams, announced a few months back that they had an agreement to play one home game a year in London for the next three years.  Those first three games are all scheduled to be played at Wembley but my assumption would be that eventually Kroenke will want to host Rams games at the Emirates.

That is, if St. Louis will let him. NFL teams only play 8 home games a season and the Rams are under a lease agreement with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission to play all of their home games at the Edward Jones Dome. Ticket sales for the match between the Rams and the Patriots have been put on hold as the Rams try to convince St. Louis that a home game in London is actually a benefit to the city of St. Louis.

St. Louis is understandably nervous about Kroenke and the Rams because after years of speculation that he wants to move the team from St. Louis back to Los Angeles we now know for a fact that Kroenke is bidding on the LA Dodgers. Dodger Stadium is the third oldest ballpark in the Major Leagues and is not so much due for a renovation as for a complete overhaul. I’m not sure that he would try to make a multi-purpose football/baseball stadium but when you see the opportunity there and you see a guy who loves to marry sports and property development, you can see why he might be bidding on the Dodgers.

Oh yeah, and the Rams’ lease with St. Louis expires in 2014.

In fairness, Kroenke and the Rams are also putting a plan on the table to renovate the Dome and surrounding areas in St. Louis. It’s important to note, however, that Kroenke’s plans all center around sports complexes and developing property around those sports complexes.

Which brings me to Arsenal and what I suspect Stan Kroenke’s intentions are with Arsenal. Again, it’s notable that he purchased Arsenal just at the time when the Highbury project was completed, the stadium debt is at a serviceable level,  and the Queensland Road project is just getting under way.

In case you don’t know, the Queensland Road project is a £160m project directly adjacent to the Emirates Stadium. It is a development that is truly something all Arsenal supporters should be proud of. Contributing 354 units of affordable housing to Islington, a community center with two five a side football pitches, business offices, and retail opportunities.

The Queensland Road project is the final piece of Arsenal’s move from Highbury to Ashburton Grove. A move which has contributed thousands of homes and construction jobs to the area. As much as I love Highbury I think that Arsenal’s supporters should be proud of the fact that the club built a new stadium, using all our own money, while respecting the traditions of the old stadium, and gave something back to the community.

And as this project develops it’s important to remember that the self-sustaining business model at Arsenal means that money generated from ticket sales, television rights, player sales, concessions, and other activities at the Emirates is what paid for all of these developments. I’ve looked at the published accounts and the only people I see putting money into the club is us supporters — whether that’s through buying a season ticket, a red level membership, or being sold to advertisers as viewers.

So, my guess is that Stan Kroenke is probably very excited to be part of the Queensland Road project — given his history in property development near sports stadiums. What I worry about is that the assumption from all of the Arsenal supporters out there is that all the proceeds from that project would be put back into the club. Unfortunately, that’s all that it is at this moment, an assumption. There are no guarantees that the club will use money generated from the Queensland Road project to do things like buy players or pay players’ competitive salaries.

Reports are that Kroenke is well aware of fan unrest at Arsenal and is jetting in to London to give Wenger his support some time this week. More than anything, what Stan Kroenke could do to make Arsenal supporters happy is to promise to put every pound earned in profit from the Queensland Road project back into the club somehow.

Sports fans love transfer stories and trades almost as much as they love the game itself. That’s why fantasy sports are so popular the world over and why a video game which has the main focus as you playing the manager instead of the athlete is similarly popular. Like it or not, fans love a big, sexy transfer. It could be argued that David Dein’s popularity is still strong because he’s the guy who brought Dennis Bergkamp to Arsenal. Given all that, I would recommend for Kroenke to promise to put that money into the Transfer Proceeds Account.

This would be unusual because that account is earmarked for Arsene (or his successor) to spend on players’ salaries and transfers and up until now has been filled exclusively by using a portion of the proceeds from player sales.

But, using proceeds from the sale of the Queensland Road project to pay off the Emirates stadium debt doesn’t make any sense. The debt on the stadium is very manageable even without Champions League football. To put it in football terms, the annual cost of servicing the debt is roughly equivalent to the salary of Diaby, Denilson, and Frimpong.

But if I’m right and the Queensland Road project has been funded by us supporters then we deserve the benefit of having a transfer pot that allows the manager to build this team for the future.

As of right now, we can only hope that’s Kroenke’s intention as well. Let’s hope he makes that clear very soon.

Qq