Three FA Cups and a Packet of Crisps: Arsenal under Kroenke


Arsenal are far from a club in crisis. Incredibly they haven’t dropped below 70 points in a league season since 2011. Their 3 FA Cups in 4 seasons gives them more silverware in the last 48 months than Tottenham and Liverpool have had combined since 2006. Year after year, they finish where they on paper, should finish. They have, and forever will, get to the end of May with 73 points and an FA Cup final to look forward to.

Even last year’s blip of 5th place can surely be forgiven considering their final tally of 75 points would’ve been enough to secure them their annual beating at the Allianz Arena Champions League berth 23 out of the 24 previous seasons

No. Arsenal are in a crisis of a different kind. Throughout this decade their owners have diminished what football is meant to be about for supporters of the 13 times League champions. Their tight-fisted tactics have succeeded in both churning out a profit for a select few who are at the top of the club, while turning Arsenal into an almost unrecognisable version of their former selves.

A club who once boasted some of the most feared attacking talent in the country with Henry, Pires and Bergkamp. No nonsense defensive units such as Adams and Vieira as well as a ground in Highbury, which scored highly on the “Bournemouth to Belgrade” scale of intimidation.

Stan Kroenke, the US sports tycoon who completed a takeover of the club in 2011, is a maligned figure among the Arsenal faithful. However, his policy of conservative spending and a focus on profit rather than success in North London has been ingenious, from a business point of view that is. The silent figure who presents himself similar to a baddy from a James Bond film, has found the perfect formula to profit from the Gunners.

His yearly recipe in the transfer market has been developed, tried and tested. One marquee signing every summer (Xhaka, Sanchez, Cech, Ozil, Lacazette) mixed in with a smattering of young squad players.  Add to that a collection of bargain buys and alternative choices to the signings supporters and possibly Wenger himself wants before countless links with Edinson Cavani and Karim Benzema in late August come to nothing.

This produces a squad that has just enough to sit on sixty points come mid to late April. They go on to win four of their last five games while drawing the other and finish on 73 points ahead of Spurs before taking home the FA Cup the following week at Wembley. Another trophy for Kroenke to point to as success. Another season of “job done” for Wenger. Another summer of tenuous links with Europe’s best, before settling for a 19-year-old holding midfielder from Lille for £18 million.

This is all that Kroenke needs. As a man who once said “If you want to win Championships then you would never get involved.”, he is more than content with a top-four finish and a cup run while Arsenal avoid a title race as if it was the plague. The shirts will sell worldwide and ticket revenue will continue to pour in.

However, Arsenal’s treatment of their supporters in the last decade is nothing short of criminal. Their continuing policy of setting ticket prices at the highest amount possible while still filling the stadium would leave the founding fathers of England’s working class game turning in their graves.

Their lack of effort to improve the atmosphere at the Emirates, which has been compared to a library at times by opposition fans, and pales in comparison to the old thunderous roar of Highbury, is a stain on their ownership and on modern day football.

Again, Kroenke doesn’t need a “Red Wall” akin to that of Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion. He doesn’t need Arsenal to become a socially progressive club admired in football fan culture. He needs Arsenal to be adequate and no better than that.

Yearly defeats in the Round of 16 in Europe won’t lose Kroenke any sleep. Any further investment to bolster their chances of getting past Europe’s big boys would simply be too big a risk.

Recent results against Chelsea and Liverpool are two more boxes checked on the equation that it is the Arsenal Algorithm. Consistent draws at home to the big boys with a win against Spurs and maybe an unlikely result against United keeping the Arsenal faithful happy. Little to nothing gained away at the Etihad, Anfield, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge is no burden on Wenger’s men as they flat track bully the bottom half of the table. Still allowing themselves the odd cataclysmic result away to West Brom and Stoke City, while beating the likes of Burnley and Brighton 3-0 on a weekly basis.

Neither Chelsea nor Liverpool will have gone to the Emirates with any fear, knowing full well the vulnerabilities that Arsenal possess and that the Emirates Stadium will do little to unnerve them on their travels.

The media and fans of rival clubs will brand Arsenal fans as ungrateful and tell them to be careful what they wish for, but Arsenal fans don’t deserve the blame. They don’t necessarily want improvement or title challenges year after year. All they want is change. For things to be less predictable.

You can’t help but feel that the Gunners would prefer a few mad seasons following players who care about the badge and the club around the country. Something akin to what Liverpool have had in recent years. A title challenge one season, only to finish 8th while getting to a Champions League final and an internal scandal involving Ivan Gazidis the next season is what Arsenal fans need. They need hope and need to go to every match, every week, not knowing what the season will bring.

That won’t happen under Kroenke and Wenger isn’t exempt from blame either. He should’ve recognised Arsenal fans’ pain and walked last summer but the lure of another two seasons of inevitable mediocrity was too good an offer to turn down.

For now, I guess Arsenal fans will just have to settle for 73 points, an FA Cup win and countless links with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

All the best.

About the Author

Liam Divilly
Irish Student and LFC supporter