Saturday, March 2, 2024

Reality bites as KSE insist they won’t sell

On the eve of the most important game of our season, it feels something of a distraction to remain focused on the owners and ownership issues, but that’s where we are.

Daniel Ek, via whoever is doing his media work behind the scenes, yesterday announced he’d be speaking publicly about his plan to buy Arsenal from KSE. That’s due to happen at some point this afternoon.

Before that even really had time to land, Stan and Josh Kroenke issued a statement making their position abundantly clear:

In recent days we have noted media speculation regarding a potential takeover bid for Arsenal Football Club. We remain 100% committed to Arsenal and are not selling any stake in the Club. We have not received any offer and we will not entertain any offer.

“Our ambition for Arsenal remains to compete to win the biggest trophies in the game and our focus remains on improving our competitiveness on the pitch to achieve this.

Stan Kroenke and Josh Kroenke
Kroenke, Sports & Entertainment

I don’t think anyone should be in the least bit surprised. As Arsenal strive for consistency on the pitch, they’ve had it at executive level in terms of the owners and their insistence that they have no intention to sell. It was reported again over the weekend, and there it is in black and white once more.

I saw some people say this was just a negotiating tactic, but I don’t believe that’s the case. I believe them when they say they won’t entertain any offers. I also don’t think that someone who goes public via Twitter, enlists some ex-players to add a level of populism to the situation, and then makes his plans public via an interview with Sky Sports (?) is ever going to find KSE amenable to their offer. They moved the Rams from St Louis to LA in spite of huge public anger and opposition, so they’re not gonna be backed into a corner by some tech guy, regardless of who he’s allegedly got on his consortium.

On ESPN, James Olley reports there was an internal meeting with KSE and staff in which funds were promised for summer investment. Which, of course, is what you’d expect, but let’s not be too cynical to acknowledge that this – whether it’s true or not – is what a lot of people are looking for from whoever runs the club. Splash the cash and you’re Mr Popular.

The issues with KSE go way beyond investment though, so let’s also not fall into the trap of labelling them tight or unwilling to spend. Over the last few years Arsenal have spent a lot of money in the market, and on new contracts for the likes of Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang:

Nicolas Pepe – £72m
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – £55m + new contract
Alexandre Lacazette – £50m
Thomas Partey – £45m (which had to be paid in full and required KSE assistance)
William Saliba – £28m
Gabriel – £26m
Kieran Tierney – £25m
Lucas Torreira – £25m
Bernd Leno – £25m

I think questions about how we’ve spent are more relevant than how much we’ve spent. We’ve also let a lot of money walk out the door for free. Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis, Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Of course not every deal has been bad, you can always point the sales of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Iwobi as ones which look pretty damn good, but too many of them have unhelpful to the finances of a club which has, for the most part, been allowed to spend what it generates.

It is an area of our operation which requires improvement, no question, but this goes way beyond what we do in the transfer market. There is a direct correlation between satisfaction with owners and performance on the pitch. If we were cruising for the top four this season and making progress, I think the objection to the Super League would still have been vociferous, but maybe not quite at the level we’ve seen. Human nature, and all that.

The reality is that since KSE assumed 100% control, our trajectory has been one way, and we need it to be the other. I had hoped – perhaps foolishly – that after the We Care Do You thing in the summer of 2019 they understood that they needed to be more hands on. To be fair, Josh was more involved, he communicated a bit more, he was at more games, but it still took the appointment of Tim Lewis last summer to put a much needed end to Raul Sanllehi’s time at the club.

Now, where’s the line between pragmatism and reality? I honestly don’t think KSE are going anywhere. I fully support protests and I would love a new owner who cared, who got it, who understood everything, who was kind and avuncular and one of us and all of that, but I simply don’t see how it’s going to happen when they have made their position so clear … again.

Right now, I think the best we can hope for is that Stan and Josh realise that for this club to get back to where they keep saying they want it to get back to, they have be more engaged. They have to hire the best people for the top positions on and off the pitch, and beyond that – given football is not their area of expertise – they are going to have to hire someone good to hire those people. That person does not have to be an Arsenal fan: their first qualification should be how good they are at their job.

More than transfer funds for a struggling manager who, as much as I want him to succeed because I think he understands a lot about what’s wrong, is finding it difficult – maybe a true signal of their involvement would be bringing a football executive with a solid track record. I know Richard Garlick is coming in from the Premier League to bolster the team behind the scenes, and that looks as if it’s been brought forward, but maybe something else is needed too.

Which isn’t to say transfer funds aren’t important. There’s a lot to do with this squad this summer, and what we do, how we do it, and where are at the beginning of next season will be key to our progression. It’s a line we’ve heard before, but regardless of what happens between now and the end of May, this is shaping up to be the most crucial summer in our recent history. However, I don’t think we can buy and sell our way back to competitiveness without the right people doing that, and as yet we’re not sure if we have them. As Tim pointed out in his column recently, KSE’s decision making has been poor, and until such time as they address that, nothing much will change.

Mikel Arteta meets the press this morning ahead of the trip to Villarreal. All the stories and coverage of that on Arseblog News, and the focus now has to turn to football because this is a massive moment for the team and the manager.

Till tomorrow.

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