Like many other Gooners out there, my tolerance towards Mr. Kroenke isn’t strong.
I feel he’s overseen our steady decline and demise from top-four regulars to ninth place. The three FA Cups wins in his tenure were all glorious occasions. But with proper oversight, targets, and drive, we had the capacity to do much more and stem our steady fall.
He has allowed those under him to underperform, and only really got rid of Wenger and Gazidis when things really started to suffer.
Wenger is a legend, and I feel should have gone years before. But Gazidis clearly was not up to it – and KSE’s major failing is poor oversight of his own operation.
I’ve critiqued KSE a lot in my articles. And whilst he has supposedly agreed to input monies to shore us up amidst the pandemic, I’m writing this to say how I would run the club if I were in KSE’s position as owner.
A quote by a compatriot of KSE’s – and a former US President no less – John F. Kennedy, sums up KSE’s tenure of Arsenal. Or more to the point, why KSE has permitted Arsenal’s fall from the top.
We were complacent, coasted on our laurels, and didn’t attend to matters when we needed to.
KSE, as a seasoned business owner himself, must know this. A successful business is built on several key points. Having good products is one thing. Having good employees is another. Marketing products is essential, as is having good equipment and processes.
But a major factor which is intangible is culture. A good culture in an organisation helps strategy, and how things are done internally.
The culture of Arsenal since KSE took over has been complacency.
It has been to tread water, and little else.
Wenger was widely mocked for his “top four is a trophy” comment. Yes, he may have been a bit flippant when saying it. Maybe he didn’t mean it literally, but it did signify the club in that immediate post-Emirates move era. It was a comfortable time, where we could qualify for the top four, get enough revenue to ease the ground’s loan repayment, use CL football to get top players in, and then say “oh Chelsea, Man United and Man City have got more money so it’s all good!! We’re where we should be!”
But what happened is that our friends Tottenham started to improve. Liverpool re-emerged under Klopp, and Leicester City even won the league. The top four from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s became a top six. It could, feasibly, with Wolves, Leicester, Everton, and Newcastle, be a top ten very soon.
This is all comes down to a weak culture at Arsenal.
What KSE has done is not instill winning as the aim.
We had this under the Hill-Woods and Dein.
If I were owner, I’d insist on all staff – footballing or not – that everything we do should be geared to the club’s triumphs. No decision made should undermine us winning something, unless it breached football regulations or the laws of the land at large.
A culture of complacency would be replaced with a culture of ruthlessness, as we need to make better decisions in the long haul to compete again.
All staff, whether players, coaches, executives, scouts, match-day staff such as stewards, etc. should all have the expectations of excellence and class in all they do. Winning with style should be the maxim for all involved, and this is something we need to revert to.
We’ve all known of the various transfer mishaps at the club in recent years.
And our on the pitch gaffes.
What KSE did was to leave the club in the hands of Wenger – who was and is a club legend. So in this case, it was understandable.
But Gazidis clearly was misfiring.
And as we were getting top four, then what else did KSE want to change? He was getting his fill, so why change?
We were finishing fourth regularly, but still in many seasons had revenues surpassing Chelsea and Liverpool. And Chelsea in some of those seasons were league winners.
The picture now, with Europa League football, of course, is different. The latest Deloitte report shows use behind Tottenham, Liverpool, and Chelsea, with City and United (of all English clubs) way ahead. Our decline on the pitch is now being mirrored off it – and it’s all due to our poor administration over several years.
We can trace the fall of Arsenal from regular top four to mid-table in this era – when financially things were good comparatively.
In 2015, we only signed Petr Cech. Yes, we needed a good GK. But we could have got more. We also needed a good CF too. And a commanding centre-back wouldn’t have gone amiss either.
KSE didn’t control transfers. He didn’t speak directly with players, agents, or other clubs’ executives or owners. But as Arsenal’s owner, he could have got his employees (Wenger and Gazidis) to be more active and diligent in transfer dealings.
In 2016, we spent £90m on Mustafi, Xhaka, Holding, and Perez.
Mustafi, bar a recent surge under Arteta, has been weak at best. Xhaka is still, after nearly four years, a major question mark.
Holding hasn’t impressed IMHO and needs to go.
And Perez did go, despite having the potential to be a decent squad player.
So this is £90m wasted, arguably.
Was there any oversight on this outlay?
We may recoup costs, if the remainder of the 2016 bunch leave. But nothing to match the original outlay. Mustafi may gain £15-20m in the current market, and Xhaka maybe £25m. Holding definitely would appreciate, as I doubt he would go for the £500k or so that we signed him for. But this is way below the £90m we obtained them for collectively. Perez incidentally left for Spain for £4m, though as a bit-part player for us this was perhaps a fair fee.
More recently, a former scout said that the club bought Mustafi on analytics alone. He said that Mustafi was nowhere near the level required, but then we disregarded his input in this matter.
If this is true, then again, where was the owner oversight?
2017 saw us get Lacazette and Kolasinac, which were needed, but more could have been done.
2018 saw us get in Guendouzi, Torreira, Sokratis, Lichsteiner, and Leno, and Lichtsteiner was the major dud there. Guendouzi has done well considering his arrival point (Ligue 2), and Leno and Torreira have had their moments. Sokratis has brought new energy in terms of his combativeness but has been error-prone akin to Luiz or Mustafi. Leno unquestionably has been the prime success here.
2019 saw an improvement, though it’s been the least experienced of that bunch (Martinelli) who has performed best. Luiz has been poor largely, despite his experience, and Pepe has shown glimpses amidst some inconsistent performances.
The executive team of Sanhelli, Edu, and Venkatesham have all be responsible for transfers since 2018, with the input of course from Emery and now Arteta as head coaches.
However, the point on oversight stands. Sanhelli et al need to be held accountable and to a tight standard.
Arsenal I feel didn’t “mend its roof whilst the sun shone“. And now we’re mopping up and patching leaks like crazy.
Akin to what President JFK said all those years ago, we were fine once we got our customary top-four place and CL football. Beating off Spurs on the last day for it too made it all the sweeter. But then nothing lasts forever, and our complacency and stodgy strategies caught up with us.
An effective owner should not have allowed this to happen.
If I were the owner, I would have regular meetings per defined targets:
End of season – did we meet what we intended? What do we need to change? How will we do it? Whom would we sign in the summer window? What are our contingencies in this regard?
Summer window – Who are we targeting? As the owner, can I persuade other clubs to sell, or buy some of our unwanted players? Have we done the business we desire, and should we change plans?
Mid-season (Christmas/winter break) – are we matching our targets? if not, then why not?
All leading employees, from the executives to the head coach, would be present and I would make them aware of what is required. If they fail, then they get sidelined or fired. It may seem cold, but then it’s about standards and a winning culture.
This, I believe, is why Liverpool is doing well. And why Chelsea and Man City have done well. It is cultures of winning, amidst money in Chelsea/City’s cases, that has caused their triumphs. We need to regain that culture, which we had when Wenger was good and Graham was in his pomp. Even Spurs under Levy and Lewis have emerged due to this, and I must say ENIC pound for pound is a superior owner to KSE. Spurs were going nowhere under Lord Sugar, but under ENIC have become a consistent top-four side, with a world-class stadium and the “best training ground in the country” (even though ours is just as good, as are those of literally half of the Premier League).
As the owner, I would also attend as many games as possible, and hold regular fan discussions. Groups like the AST, Red Action, Black Scarf, etc. could present changes to the club, and if feasible they could be implemented accordingly. This can include match-day items or club policies. Even AFTV, and other fan channels, could also. I would not leave my executives to host meetings, such as what happened in 2019 with Sanhelli, Venkatesham, and Edu. As the owner, I would attend and answer questions, even if they were hostile.
One thing we had when Dein was around was that he was a Gooner. He thus wanted the best. The late Peter Hill-Wood, as Chairman, inherited the position from his father Denis, and thus looked to care for the club in that capacity. Both he and Dein had this interest as custodians.
We need to regain this, as much as a winning culture, and I’m sure we can progress again.
If using the model I have above for the current season, I would have:
not signed David Luiz
signed one of Lewis Dunk, Nathan Ake, or even put in a bid for Liverpool’s Matip. They may well have said no, but then it least can unsettle rivals and show we mean business.
still signed Pepe, Martinelli, Tierney, and Ceballos
sold Mkhitaryan to Roma though initially on a loan with a view to buy for £5-10m
sounded out clubs for Ozil’s sale, even offering to pay 50-70% of the wages
got rid of Emery after the Sheffield United loss
hired Rafa Benitez as head coach
place strong oversight on executives, head coach, and other staff on getting the best players available for all positions
There would have to be pretty good reasons for not getting desired targets. These would be acts of God like the current pandemic, players turning us down (which happens to all clubs at some points), we not having the sufficient funds, or being in financial distress. There would be no 2015 summer windows under my watch – as whilst we needed an experienced GK like Cech, we had the finances, scope, and stature to get much more.
This reads like a manifesto in part – but seeing our decline lately hasn’t been fun.
We cannot blame Wenger – he’s gone. Gazidis too has gone.
But there is only one constant – and he facilitated the mess to happen.
I would buy the club actually – but only if I had a spare three or four billion pounds lying around. I guess I should start a Go Fund Me or something…
If KSE is to stay for the long haul or any potential owner like Dangote, then ruthlessness is what is required. It must be a person who can make decisions for the club’s betterment, which enables it to succeed as ably as possible. This has been severely lacking lately and must be corrected if we’re to get back to the top.
We don’t need a sugar daddy. FFP and its more stringent application forbid it, as Man City know all too well. The SCC protocol from the Premier League also prohibits this. KSE never bought the club with the intention of a sugar daddy anyhow. What we do need is a person who can facilitate a winning culture and make the decisions required to take us to the top again.