Josh Kroenke's interview on Arsenal: what he said about progress, ownership and fans - and what it means

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Josh Kroenke's interview on Arsenal: what he said about progress, ownership and fans - and what it means - Getty Images
Josh Kroenke's interview on Arsenal: what he said about progress, ownership and fans - and what it means - Getty Images

Arsenal director Josh Kroenke will be in attendance at the Emirates Stadium for the match against Watford on Sunday.

Kroenke has spent the past few days in London after flying in from the United States in order to talk with club staff, including manager Mikel Arteta, and to meet with supporters.

Kroenke, the son of owner Stan, has taken an increasingly influential role at the club in the past few years and this week he spoke to Sky Sports about a number of issues, including Arsenal’s off-field strategy and the strained relationship between the owners and the fans. Here, Telegraph Sport analyses Kroenke’s key comments.

Change of strategy after post-Wenger mistakes

Arsenal had a very clear policy in this summer’s transfer window, when they only targeted young players. All six of their summer signings were aged 23 or under, with Mikel Arteta and technical director Edu spending considerable sums on refreshing the squad.

After a disastrous opening few games of the season, Arteta has since been able to integrate these players into his team. Results have subsequently improved, with Arsenal on a nine-match unbeaten run ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Watford.

Kroenke told Sky there is a feeling that progress has been made behind the scenes. “We weren't breaking any transfer records but the net spend was very high,” he said of the summer business.

"We had many areas we needed to address on the pitch, those were addressed with players of a certain quality, of a certain age, and I think what gets left out quite a bit is, we needed to change a few mentalities around here. We needed to get mentally stronger.”

Arteta's Arsenal dressing room is less cliquey following summer changes - Getty Images
Arteta's Arsenal dressing room is less cliquey following summer changes - Getty Images

Kroenke’s comments on the mentality of the side will certainly resonate with those who have watched Arsenal over the past few years. Arsenal have long been accused of lacking the mental edge of some of their rivals, and the dressing room was known to be fractured at the end of Unai Emery’s tenure and the start of Arteta’s reign.

This season the squad has become less cliquey, as Arsenal have deliberately targeted players with impressive attitudes and leadership qualities. The squad was lacking leadership in the years following Arsene Wenger’s departure, and Kroenke accepted the attempted “quick fixes” did not work.

"We had to step back, truly understand where we were as a club, and map out a multi-year process to get back there,” he said. “There were some quick fixes that we tried along the way, involving breaking transfer records, trying to fill positions of need, but when you really examine the squad and the club from top to bottom we had to redefine our culture, redefine our strategy and we had to get younger on the pitch.”

Kroenke says owners are ‘just getting started’

Kroenke Sports & Entertainment have made it clear that they have no interest in relinquishing control of Arsenal, despite the persistent interest of Spotify billionaire Daniel Ek.

Ek’s £1.8 billion bid to buy Arsenal was rejected earlier this year and Kroenke has once again insisted that the current owners will not be tempted to sell. He also told Sky they have received other bids “from different parties around the world” in recent years.

“It is a wonderful institution,” said Kroenke. “Arsenal Football Club is a global brand and my only response to anything is the club is not for sale. We are just getting started.”

KSE have had full control of Arsenal since 2018 and it is clear that the Kroenkes view this as the start date of the tenure, despite having a controlling stake in the club since 2011.

The latest comments will not be well received by supporters who hoped that Ek, backed by former players including Thierry Henry, might be able to oust the Kroenkes in the wake of the Super League debacle earlier this year. Henry has insisted, though, that Ek is “here to stay” and there is no suggestion that the Swede’s interest has cooled.

Kroenke: It would be ‘stupid’ to ignore the fans again

Arsenal’s involvement in the botched Super League marked the low point in the relationship between the fans and the owners, which had hardly been strong before. Kroenke has since attempted to build a better connection, although there is still a lack of trust and repeated chants of “Kroenke out” from Arsenal supporters at matches.

Kroenke this week spoke to representatives from supporter groups who form the newly-established fan advisory board, and he said the club would never again make a decision like joining the Super League without speaking to their supporters.

'Kroenke Out' banners are frequently seen at the Emirates - PA
'Kroenke Out' banners are frequently seen at the Emirates - PA

“I think we'd be naïve and stupid to do that again without consulting our fans,” he said. “We all referenced things [during that meeting with fans] of how the situation evolved, but I don't want a 48-hour period to define us and I really look forward to engaging with those supporters both now and in the future so they understand who we are and what we're trying to accomplish so we can all accomplish it together."

Unfortunately for the club’s owners, it will almost certainly take years for them to build a strong relationship with the supporters, if it is ever possible. The feeling towards the Kroenkes was already resoundingly negative before the Super League debacle, and it will take a dramatic turnaround for many supporters to ever fully accept the owners.

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