This week, American businessman, billionaire, and possible future owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers Stan Kroenke flew into London in order to publicly express his full support of Arsene Wenger. Arsenal’s board of directors has had some interesting topics to discuss, which include, but are certainly not limited to: Robin van Persie’s future with the club, Arsene Wenger’s future with the club, and the monies to be spent this coming summer–all of which impact public perception of Wenger in one way or another. Whereas there were indications that the club was pursuing a fiscally-conservative (i.e., “stingy”) policy that was limiting the anticipated transfers during the past two transfer windows, Kroenke appears to have loosened the proverbial purse strings, awarding Arsene a respectable war chest of up to £100m.
The continuing buzz in the United States is that Kroenke is poised to purchase Major League Baseball’s Dodgers for the mind-boggling sum of 1.5 billion dollars. I don’t even know off the top of my head what that equates to in pounds, but it’s a ton of cash, just put it that way. Arsenal supporters have been concerned that Kroenke’s bid for the Dodgers might negatively impact Arsenal, and though there exists no conflict of interest between the Premiere League and the MLB, one might realistically surmise a crisis of priorities.
Incidentally, Mr. Kroenke will attend the match against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Apparently, members of the Arsenal Supporters Trust have confronted Kroenke and implied that he needs to be more fully engaged in the business of running the club.
Just three days ago, I offered a somewhat complex perspective on Arsene Wenger and Arsenal as a collective whole. My article was in no way intended to be controversial nor start a World War III within the confines of ArsenalInsider’s forums, but it seems to have accomplished just that. Whereas I could have exercised my right to speak candidly about my personal feelings, I opted to give two wholly differing perspectives within that one article (I have my issues, but I’m definitely not schizo.) On the one hand, we true Arsenal supporters want to give the appropriate level of respect to Arsene, a living legend in the truest sense of that unfortunately overly-used phrase. He has been with Arsenal for a veritable eternity, and for his past accomplishments, he deserves to be commended for his efforts if not his successes. On the other hand, the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum, the fans are understandably angry and frustrated, and in their angst, Wenger has become an easy target. The players sins are forgiven, whereas Wenger is eternally damned.
Real Madrid has already established its interest in Arsene, and one would have to wonder how he would handle that team in contrast to Arsenal. Arsene’s youth-oriented experiment has yet to pay off, and fans seem disinclined to acquiesce to a long-term strategy. Delayed gratification is not something anyone has the patience for at this point in time. We want reasonable assurances that Arsene is capable of returning Arsenal to its former glory, and we want the team to be competitive much sooner than later.
Arsene is not without his fair share of supporters. David O’Leary, Thierry Henry, and Stan Kroenke are just three of the key individuals that have come out of the woodwork this week to express their support for Wenger. Their high-profile endrosements of him will reassure many fans that the team is not yet in decline as many suspect. Wenger is embattled in the truest sense of the word, fighting for his own reputation and a future with Arsenal.
David O’Leary is one of Arsenal’s most ardent fans, and he remains a strong supporter of Wenger. O’Leary is convinced that this past season exemplified all that is wrong with Arsenal at the moment, and the only available solution is to purge the team of the players that have failed to live up to Wenger’s high expectations. According to O’Leary, Wenger needs to take a scalpel to the team, eliminating at least half a dozen players in order to transfuse the team with fresh blood. Okay, I said scalpel–and I’m pretty sure O”Leary mentioned using an axe.
Unlike many high-profile managers, Arsene has seemed sincerely convinced that the team’s fortunes could be altered at any given moment. Cognizant of the presence of all-too-vocal fair weather fans who scream bloody murder every time Arsenal loses a game, Arsene refuses to concede that the team is worth writing off. Again and again, he has expressed faith in the team and has trried to reassure concerned fans that Arsenal still has better days ahead of it. I was personally convinced that Arsene was being unrealistically optimistic in order to provide some necessary cover for him while the angry mob clamored for his immediate resignation, but the narrative seems to be playing out altogether differently than how I originally perceived it. Arsene actually believes in his men, and because he believes performance on the pitch is in a direct correlation with a team’s self-confidence, he has done everything in his power to bolster the confidence of the Gunners.
You may not know it, but many high-profile corporations are trying to claim their own little piece of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The most recent company to throw its hat into the ring is the Walt Disney Company, which wanted to have some type of photoshoot with Alex. this week. According to recent reports, Arsene ”put his foot down” and refused to allow the photoshoot to take place because of its proximity to the north London derby against Tottenham this weekened. Arsene wanted the 18-year-old Alex to remain focused on the game, and the photoshoot would have provided an unnecessary distraction and created an unwanted disruption in training and preparation. Alex is young and energetic and his talents have justified his salary, but with all the potential sponsors trying to capitalize on his popularity, too many media-oriented events were going to stretch him a bit too thin. Clearly, Arsene is not playing around. He’s still taking this season seriously, and he’s still confident that Arsenal can finish in the top four, even if hardly anybody else agrees with him. For what it’s worth, Thierry Henry just told the official Arsenal webpage that Arsenal’s future is still bright, that a win against Tottenham could ignite the team and give them some much-needed momentum. Henry’s reasoning is perfectly sound, and it’s very much in keeping with the tone that Arsene has had all along.
On a somewhat related note, the father of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has recently discussed the rationale behind his son choosing Arsenal over other potential suitors. He maintains that Alex chose Arsenal because he prefer’s Arsenal’s playing style over that of even Manchester United. This is in and of itself an interesting little contribution to solidify the credibility of Wenger. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was partial to Wenger’s “footballing ethos,” and if Arsenal fans want to keep Alex happy, it looks like Wenger must be part of the arrangement. Alex might be loathe to play for anyone else. And I’d hate to see both Robin van Persie and Alex both follow Arsene to Real Madrid.
In the ongoing debate over whether or not Arsene should stay, it appears that some respected voices are speaking up on behalf of the under-fire Wenger, providing him some much-needed coverage. Kroenke didn’t make all his money by being ignorant, and he’s clearly willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. If Kroenke’s willing to put his trust in Arsene, well…Then so am I.
Or, I’ll at least strongly consider it.