There were special guests in the Arsenal box on Wednesday night. Along with Oleksandr Zinchenko, general manager Vinai Venkatesham and technical director Edu were joined by board member Tim Lewis and owners Stan and Josh Kroenke.
Zinchenko’s now formal signing means Arsenal have spent more on transfer fees this summer than any other club in Europe so far. Last summer their transfer spend was the highest in the Premier League.
The transfer fee only tells part of the story – salary is also a big part of the budget and alongside this seemingly lavish spending, Arsenal have managed to rebalance their wage bill. Nevertheless, their expenses represent an important support of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.
Asked about the owners during a media appearance at Universal Studios on Friday, Arteta was adamant in his praise. “I was really impressed,” he said. “They stayed here for two days. We had plenty of time to sit very relaxed – talking about football, sports in general.
“The vision they have, the commitment and the level of understanding of the sport in general is fascinating.
“I can tell you: I have never seen an owner at this level so committed, close and committed to bringing this club to where we want it to be.”
Of course, Arteta is inclined to speak that way. The Kroenkes are ultimately his employers – the owners who agreed to bet on an untested manager. The Spaniard’s limited experience means he doesn’t have much to weigh against KSE either. It’s not like, as a manager, he’s dealt with a variety of different owners.
It’s fair to treat anyone’s praise for their boss with a healthy measure of cynicism, but even taking that into account, Arteta may be right. KSE’s claim is that since they finally took full control of the club, they have been able to wield greater influence at Arsenal. Speaking in November last year, Josh Kroenke said his family had “only really owned the club since 2018”.
Things seem to be changing. Josh takes a more active role in the governance of Arsenal than his father ever seemed. Lewis’ presence in the box in Orlando was further evidence of the pivotal role he plays in linking Arsenal’s executive hierarchy to ownership. There is more surveillance now. The characterization of the Kroenke as aloof, disengaged and avaricious seems increasingly outdated.
“I think before we could have a perception of what they were,” says Arteta. “I think it’s completely changed. I think that has been demonstrated with facts and deeds.
“Their presence here too. Something must be here and something must be here as they were. I guarantee you: they are fully engaged, engaged and really looking forward to taking this club to the top.
The Kroenkes began to taste success in their other sports franchises. The LA Rams won the Super Bowl in February. The Colorado Avalanche added the ice hockey Stanley Cup. Those close to the Kroenkes say they now want Arsenal to follow suit by winning one of football’s biggest prizes. For KSE, given the scale of the competition, the challenges they faced, and the position they were held in by the fans, this might be the most cherished achievement of all.
So sanctioning spending is partly about ambition — but let’s be clear, it’s also about protecting an asset. Arsenal had tumbled from Europe and their star appeared on the wane. They had to buy to stop the bleeding and start a new project.
It meant abandoning their previously “self-sufficient” model – even though the pandemic would have forced them to do so anyway. But this expense is something that had to happen.
“If you look at how other teams have done it and where we were, there’s a moment of transition where this (curve) has to change at some point,” Arteta says, pointing to a drop and a rise of one. help.
“Look where we’re investing the money – we’re not spending the money, we’ve made big investments – but investing for the future with huge talent and a lot of performance. Maybe in the future, we will have to do something to have a team that can sustainably be financed by itself.
💬 “He’s amazing. He’s phenomenal, on and off the pitch. It’s a pleasure to be his teammate again and I can’t wait to play with him.”
Safe to say two of our new recruits have a lot of love for each other ❤️ pic.twitter.com/8QNujHPU5j
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) July 22, 2022
If Arsenal are to return to a stand-alone model, they need the additional revenue generated by Champions League qualification. They have to speculate to accumulate – they may need to speculate just to start breaking even again.
KSE’s decision to support Arsenal’s spending is probably driven by pure business strategy rather than passion, but for a fan does it matter, given the result is the same?
For many Arsenal fans, the Kroenkes are irredeemable. They don’t buy 2018 like the watershed it portrays and feel that these owners have presided over a steady decline since their first involvement.
The sackings at the start of the pandemic did little to curry favor, even though Arsenal insist they were necessary. And then there was the decision to join the breakaway European Super League, which sparked mass protests at the Emirates Stadium. For some, this act remains totally unforgivable – and everything that follows could be interpreted as an attempt to rehabilitate KSE’s reputation.
There is also the question of how exactly these expenses are financed. Arsenal’s latest financial results showed the club owed £201.5m to parent company KSE UK. The interest rate of these loans remains private, even if Athleticism has been informed that the conditions are favorable to the club. The loan is repayable on two years’ notice but, to date, no notice has been received. Arsenal’s summer spending this year is likely to lead to more debt. If KSE called that, it would leave Arsenal in dire financial straits.
It was said that KSE’s ‘hands-off’ approach depended on a strong executive core at the helm of the club. After several years of constant transition and a few questionable nominations, the Kroenkes seem to have landed on a pair they trust in Arteta and Edu. Arteta in particular seems to have a skill for managing from the top – he’s able to pressure the property for support when needed.
And basically it happens. The Kroenkes are far from perfect landlords, but there is clearly money available. The accusation has long been that Kroenke ownership will not be what propels Arsenal to the top of English football but, in a purely sporting sense, it is increasingly difficult to argue that the Kroenkes are what is holding Arsenal back.
(Top photo: Arsenal directors Tim Lewis (left) and Josh Kroenke; David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)