For many fans, the problem with the power structure at Arsenal is that, since the departure of David Dein, the club has been lacking individuals willing to contradict Arsene Wenger. From Pat Rice and Boro Primorac to Ivan Gazidis and Peter Hill-Wood the Arsenal manager appears to have all of them eating out of the palm of his hand. So what then should Arsenal fans expect of Stan Kroenke? You’re as likely to see ‘Silent’ Stan around The Emirates as you are to see Ed Miliband delivering seminars on charisma, but that does not mean that the largest sports mogul in the world will not be keeping a keen eye on the club he paid close to a billion dollars for in April last year.
His NFL franchise the St. Louis Rams have recently finished a disappointing season, similar to the one Arsenal are enduring at the moment, what better way to understand the north London club’s new owner than to observe his behaviour towards his other teams. So what was Kroenke’s reaction to the Rams having such a poor season? A major restructuring of the club. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney were both shown the door in what Kroenke described as a ‘difficult but necessary’ change for the club.
This begs the question: could we see a similar scenario at Arsenal come the end of the season? With the Arsene Wenger’s tenure apparently wearing thin with The Emirates’ crowd and Ivan Gazidis testing the patience of every Arsenal fan with his lack of negotiating skill could Kroenke really be the man to initiate success-inspiring change at Arsenal? His overhaul of the management of the St. Louis Rams certainly showed that he is not afraid to put sentimentality aside for the success of the club, even if it was an injury crisis that hampered the Rams’ season rather than the coaching staff.
The problem is of course is that Arsenal is still a profitable club under Wenger, he still has the ability to make money for Kroenke and come the end of the season we could see a subconscious differentiation from Kroenke between ‘for the good of the club’ and ‘for the good of my pocket’. The same goes for Gazidis, who we know does a good job expanding Arsenal’s global brand but is found wanting when it comes to transfer dealings – most notably selling one of the world’s best central midfielders and Arsenal’s captain for a pitiful initial £25m. For Barcelona President Sandro Rosell to announce shortly after the transfer that Fabregas was actually worth closer to £60m was a bitter pill for Arsenal fans to swallow and not one they will forgive Gazidis for easily.
However you would expect that, being former chief executive of the MLS, Ivan Gazidis was probably one of the major reasons for Kroenke’s faith in Arsenal, thus his departure seems unlikely. A further worry for Arsenal fans should be that even if Kroenke were to sack Arsene Wenger, with so little time spent watching Arsenal games and a questionable knowledge of football in general, how strong a position will Kroenke be in to either recognise the type of manager that Arsenal would need as Wenger’s replacement or identify which manager has those qualities. This might be largely up to Peter Hill-Wood but even he seems out of touch in recent years.
How too should Arsenal fans read Kroenke’s situation with the LA Dodgers, an MLB team that the American tycoon has bid for. Should they be worried that Kroenke seems to have a greater interest in adding to his collection of teams rather than focusing on providing success for them? Looking at his other ventures you can deduce that Kroenke certainly won’t be embarking on any Arsenal shaped extravagances any time soon, that’s not his style. However he’s not afraid of initiating changes, indeed the American media has suggested that Kroenke is bidding for the LA Dodgers because he intends to move the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, which is no small feat. So what can we infer from our knowledge of Kroenke? That he’s not scared to make big decisions, that he’s definitely not Abramovich or Mansour, but above all he’s interested in making money. If you needed any proof that Wenger had the full support of Kroenke you need only look to the American’s interview with The Telegraph, in which he said:
“Arsene is one of my favourite people I have met in the last 20 years. He is a great person and I love the way he handles himself. I love his focus. He is a very intelligent guy. You can talk to him about anything and, when he starts talking to people, I really love to listen to him…I have tremendous confidence in him. He is one of the great managers in the world…With Arsene, it [leaving the club] is his decision and only he will know that.”
So it looks ominous for the ‘Wenger-out’ brigade, at least another season looks likely for the Arsenal manager should he refuse to walk, but Kroenke has proved that he is prepared to shake things up, when he might do so is another matter altogether.
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