The dissatisfaction felt by the majority of Arsenal fans in previous seasons has never been far away from the surface. If it hasn’t been evident in the form of placards, banners, protests and planes overhead carrying messages, it’s taken the form of empty seats and outrage on social media forums.
The latest form of revolt is the refusal, in some quarters, to buy the new Adidas kit but as yet, it’s unclear if that action has impacted on the club’s coffers.
Arsenal fans are deeply suspicious of the current regime and that shows no signs of abating anytime soon. Fans consider that the club has taken advantage of their loyalty and willingness to support the side with hard earned cash, whilst they are guilty of neglecting the team by sacrificing success for increased revenues.
It’s perceived, rightly or wrongly, that Stan Kroenke is only interested in Arsenal as a commercial venture which is able to generate more cash than it is able to compete on the world and domestic football stages.
The mere mention of the name Kroenke tends to be enough to provoke extreme reactions and the ‘Kroenke out’ campaign has grown dramatically to the point where it is prevalent to ask, who supports him, rather than who doesn’t.
I’d hazard a guess, allowing for ‘the don’t knows’, that the anti Kroenke fan base is around 95%. Some clearly think that his blueprint will change the club’s fortunes, based on the success of his American businesses, but his biggest crime appears to be a lack of emotional commitment or connection with the club.
He is without question, the most detested club owner of all time but seems unmoved by the clamour to oust him from the North London club.
The reality is that Kroenke is going nowhere, he’s confirmed that he will be the club’s long term owner and that he is in for the long haul. Of course, it will take a billionaire to buy a billionaire out but as we’ve already seen, Kroenke is up for a fight, having seen off Alisher Usmanov in the much anticipated battle of the shareholders that promised much but ended as something of a damp squib.
So you can leave the stadium empty, refuse to buy the shirts and call him out at every home game, but this guy is not going to be shifted from his perch across the Atlantic.
So what can be done ? In truth not a lot, apart from sporadic demonstrations which I’m reliably informed will commence with the very first game of the new season.
In the shape of things to come, Arsenal fans were in good voice in their first pre-season game against Boreham wood with fans chanting
“We want Kroenke out”
The feeling is so intense, the arguments so strong and the disagreements so divisive that it is splitting the fan base in two. Online forums are now the place to air frustrations in a vociferous and sometimes unpleasant way, as the gulf between the club and its fans widens.
Prepare for a season of more disharmony because if Arsenal aren’t able to rebuild this broken and battered side, the backlash will be substantial, especially in the light of their local rivals being able to freely spend cash, even though they have just paid £1billion for a new stadium.
That sticks in the throat more than anything else and the fact that they are able to pursue top targets is almost impossible to bare.
The protests from the Arsenal fans seem constant but with differing themes, Kroenke, Wenger, Gazidis and Kroenke again have all been a source of friction. If Emery isn’t backed by the board and given sufficient funds to make substantial improvements, you may want to add his name to the list because it will happen.
Of course, all this unrest will eventually filter through to the team on the pitch. Despondency is like a virus, it can be sensed right around the ground and it will eventually damage the players’ confidence if there is a downturn in form.
The best thing for the club is that it’s sold on, but there are no guarantees that any more money would be spent or that it would be run any differently, yet I suspect most Arsenal fans would prefer anyone other than Kroenke in charge.
Its no coincidence that Arsenal have been in decline during Stan’s watch and if the businessman thought he was just going to simply apply the same strategy to Arsenal as he has done with his various American interests, he underestimated the fan base and the importance of the club.
Kroenke has not been helped by the opinions and influence of former Arsenal legends such as David Seaman, who said recently in support of Unai Emery:
“The board need to back him or otherwise we are going to be left further behind.”
Ian Wright was particularly forthright with his comments regarding Kroenke’s potential buyout of Usmanov when he said:
“I can sum up the prospect of Stan Kroenke becoming the sole owner of Arsenal in two words – absolutely disastrous.”
“And if, as seems highly likely, that does become the case, I genuinely fear the days of seeing the Gunners challenging for top honours on a regular basis may well have come and gone.”
And when the deal went through, the former striker was on record as saying:
“Incredibly sad day for so many of our fan shareholders that they no longer own a part of this club.”
“Imagine if this wasn’t only about [money] but about the club, the community & the fans “
The only way that this situation will improve in any shape or form, is if Arsenal secure the service of a number of exciting new stars but even then, it may do little to improve the relationship between the Arsenal faithful and it’s shady owner.