Sunday, October 2, 2022

KSE, NFL, Josh Kroenke, and Arsenal spending

There’s been a lot of KSE talk in the wake of the Superb Owl victory for the LA Rams, and whether or not there’s anything Arsenal fans, or Arsenal Football Club, can take from it.

Personally, I’m not sure. I asked a couple of people who know NFL and know Arsenal, and they’re not convinced. On the Arsecast yesterday, I reckoned the best we could hope for is that the taste for winning becomes something that Stan and Josh Kroenke want to replicate across all their teams – and it does look as if some of their other ‘franchises’ are doing well this season.

When it comes to Arsenal in the last couple of windows, money has been spent, no doubt about it. There’s often been a lot of focus on the money we’ve wasted, paying off players like Mesut Ozil, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Willian and Aubameyang, and clearly that is an unsustainable model. I do worry a little that the justification for paying off senior players so you can build a young, hungry squad only works for as long as those young, hungry players stay that way, and it’s not impossible that they – or canny agents – might view those departures as a precedent which can be repeated. That is, of course, offset by the fact they should retain some market value which ought to make it easier to generate a transfer fee if we decide their time is up here.

Still, in spite of not bringing in a great deal via the transfer market, we’ve spent plenty in the last couple of summer windows:

  • Thomas Partey – £45m (paid in full due to release clause being triggered).
  • Gabriel Magalhaes – £27m
  • Aaron Ramsdale – £24m
  • Takehiro Tomiyasu – £16m
  • Ben White – £50m
  • Nuno Tavares – £7m
  • Albert Sambi Lokonga – £17m
  • Martin Odegaard – £30m

Those are the most recent deals, but it’s worth remembering the summer splurge of 2019 when we spent £72m on Nicolas Pepe, £28m on William Saliba, £25m on Kieran Tierney, as well £7m on David Luiz and £6m on Gabriel Martinelli. Money has been spent, and the occasional decent departure like Alex Iwobi to Everton or Joe Willock to Newcastle has hardly put much of a dent in that. Especially when we’ve also had to deal with the incentivised departures of the senior players I mentioned earlier.

For some, this spending is evidence that the ownership have put money into the club, but for me it’s unclear that this is the case. They have certainly facilitated it, but did they dip into their own coffers to provide funds for these deals? I doubt it. I suspect the spending = loans = debt, but as KSE now own the club 100%, those details may well be somewhat opaque, even after the mandatory financial results are posted. We’ll have to wait and see what Swiss Ramble makes of it as and when that happens.

I did watch an interview with Josh Kroenke yesterday, in which he talks about their ownership of the club, the current structure with Arteta and Edu, the Super League debacle, and lots more. You can watch below if you fancy, it’s quite interesting:

I think he speaks pretty well in general, and one of the major complaints people have had about KSE’s ownership is a lack of input and involvement from the very top. At the very least you have to say Josh Kroenke has addressed that, and it’s clear he is much more involved than Stan ever was – even if the set-up was different back then and a more ‘hands on’ approach from him wouldn’t have necessarily been welcome.

There is a relatively young group in charge at Arsenal right now, with Josh, Mikel Arteta, Edu and Vinai at the helm, supported by some more senior heads at board level, but that does make for an interesting dynamic. A young team, young executives, and hopefully something that can grow together.

When it comes to the Super League stuff, he says it’s something he’ll learn from, and I guess you have to take him at face value with that, but it’s still interesting to me that something which was so febrile when it all went down, fizzled out so quickly. The level of condemnation was intense, there were protests outside the ground which I’m sure people remember well, but very quickly the whole thing faded into the background. In part it’s because it was so quick, 48 hours between announcement and withdrawal, and football provided the ‘distraction’ as the Premier League season continued. However, for some that’s not something that’s easily forgotten.

I have to say I remain a bit cynical about the justification that we had to decide in an instant whether we were in or out. Looking back on it, it does make some sense that the whole thing was rushed – they barely even had a functional website and some of the communication was half-arsed to say the least – but as a concept and a point of discussion between the big clubs in Europe, this was not a new thing at all. Was it a hurried decision forced upon them by the financial hardships inflicted by the pandemic, or a cynical attempt to use an extraordinary situation to bring forward something they’ve been planning for a long time? I’ll leave that up to you.

Kroenke Jr also says that sometimes in a position of leadership you have to make unpopular decisions, which might well be a reference to the Super League, but it’s also out there in the open about things which might happen in the future. Ultimately though, how the ownership is viewed will depend significantly on what happens on the pitch. Right now this season looks promising, there is a very clear opportunity there, and one to build on in the summer if we can get this right between now and May.

I’m sure KSE would love to be popular owners, but I don’t think they care too much about being unpopular either. As I said above, the best we can hope for from successes in US sports is that they try hard to replicate them on this side of the Atlantic. Let’s see.

I’ll leave you with a brand new Arsecast Extra, all the links you need are below. Enjoy!

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