Arsenal majority shareholder Stan Kroenke must get tough with manager Arsène Wenger following latest loss
Henry Winter sends an open letter to Arsenal majority shareholder Stan Kroenke as the club contemplates another season without silverware.
It sounds like you’re going to give Arsène Wenger your full support at Thursday’s board meeting. Well, if you genuinely care for the Arsenal, or at the very least care for your substantial investment, please attach conditions.
You must either persuade the manager to change his ways or face the inevitable prospect of changing the manager for another. And please tell Ivan Gazidis to stop being so darn deferential towards Wenger. No employee is bigger than the Arsenal.
Those familiar with your business modus operandi say it’s your style to appoint individuals (including inherited ones), give them a budget to work with and leave them to get on with it. Not now. Not with Arsenal’s season in this kind of meltdown. You need to be more hands-on. It’s time to challenge the manager and the culture. We know you hate the nickname ‘Silent Stan’. So don’t be.
Arsène looks exhausted, being crotchety with the press and opposing managers, traits that transmit a negative message to a dressing-room increasingly riddled with doubt. He needs help, Stan, a proper sounding board that he respects, a director to stop him faffing about in the transfer market. Arsène dithered over Juan Mata and Gary Cahill and Chelsea said thank you very much. He then rushed into buying Per Mertesacker, a giraffe in a sport of gazelles. You were there on Tuesday. You saw Mertesacker labour. Seriously.
Your great club had an opportunity to bring in Hugo Lloris last summer. Arsene hesitated. Why? He worried about collateral damage to Wojciech Szczesny’s confidence. Come on. Shielding somebody’s feelings is all very well but this is sport, not a cub-scout jamboree. This is about winning, about the law of the jungle. Anyway, Szczesny has hardly looked a worthy successor to Jack Kelsey, Bob Wilson or David Seaman this season. It’s a painful truth for you and the board but the club miss David Dein. He’d tell Arsène to stop prevaricating and buy.
You could have got Patrick Vieira on board. Or Brian Marwood. Please, tap into ex-players’ expertise. Don’t let your rivals reap the benefits.
Stan, when Bayern Munich were in town on Tuesday, ending your season, did you meet the people on their board? You might have bumped into Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who conquered Europe with club and country, or the World Cup-winning Uli Hoeness or Matthias Sammer, he of the 74 caps and the job description on the club website that reads: “trophies are his absolute priority at FC Bayern”. Trophies. It’s the name of the game. Keep one eye on the bottom line, Stan, but why not for once make a break for the finishing line?
When Bayern’s board makes decisions, as it did so stealthily and successfully with Pep Guardiola, it draws on decades of accumulated dressing-room wisdom. Arsenal can’t. A board full of civilians stays in awe of Wenger. I bet you stand up and salute when he walks into the room. Look, Arsène’s a fine man and a good manager but he’s not some mythical legend who cannot be questioned. Tell your chief executive to be tougher. Heaven knows, you pay Gazidis enough. Sir Alex Ferguson spoke on Wednesday of having “a million arguments” with David Gill and they’ve won trophy after trophy, built team after team.
At the Emirates on Tuesday, you may have seen that fan with the shirt bearing the words of that Wenger mission statement: “We don’t buy world-class players. We make them.” But now you sell them. Listen to the fans, Stan.
The growing fear is Jack Wilshere could be next. Jack’s a good kid, wholehearted, and definitely committed to your great club but what happens if there’s another season of losing out in 2013-2014? Jack wants to be No 1. Do the math.
Talking of which, Stan, you need to revisit your remuneration policy. You’ve the fourth largest wage bill in the EPL, pushing towards £150m a year, yet the balance is wrong. Let’s cut to the chase. Let’s call your problem under Wenger the Squillaci Factor, an average player paid way over the odds. So divide the cake more cleverly. Promote meritocracy rather than mediocrity. Be American.
Sorry to twist the knife, Stan, but take another glance at Bayern.
They’ve a good blend of home-grown darling and high-class hiring, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez. And just how many of your players would get in Bayern’s team? Just Jack. We all love Theo but he doesn’t deliver like Thomas Müller. Have a word with Arsène. Ask him where his leaders are, his real “go-to guys” beyond Jack?
Stan, in truth, you’re lucky. Arsenal fans could be picketing the ground, chaining themselves to the railings. You must understand their hurt. Supporting a “soccer” club is not an emotion switched on when crossing the stadium threshold on match-day. It lives with you, keeps you awake at night. It becomes an obsession that can wreck jobs, marriages and bank balances.
Stan, ignore the social-media uprising. On Tuesday, there was no mutiny at the Emirates. It is hard to imagine many other supporters of leading clubs being this stoic. But do not take quietness for tacit acceptance. There are stains on a famous shirt.
Tell Arsène that today.