Once Arsenal cleared the Emirates Stadium debt, most thought they would return to the great club they were in the early 2000s. The board made a few marquee signings for the squad that helped the Gunners add two FA Cups to the trophy cabinet, but they have not contended for the Premier League title in years.
Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis let Arsene Wenger run Arsenal like a dictatorship for about a decade, and after the club finished in fifth place last season, Gazidis, the club’s chief executive, promised that the disappointment would be a “catalyst for change”. So far, Arsenal sit in sixth place in the Premier League, 12 points away from fourth place.
The board has played a major role in the gradual descent of the club, and the downward trend centers around the building of Emirates Stadium. From 2006/07 to 2012/13, the club spent about as much money as they took in from sales of players since they had to pay off the costs for building the £390 million stadium. The only exceptions during that time period were the 2008/09 and 2010/11 transfer windows. The 08/09 season saw the club bring in Andrey Arshavin, Samir Nasri, and Aaron Ramsey, and Arsenal bought Laurent Koscielny, Wellington Silva, and Sebastian Squillaci in 10/11.
Aside from Ramsey, who scored the winning goals in the 2014 and 2017 FA Cup finals, these signings yielded no success for the club. All of these signings were Wenger’s since he has never worked with a director of football during his time at Arsenal. The club made him a monarch: no one challenged his decisions in the market and within the squad or helped him close deals.
Although Wenger liked having all the responsibility for tactics, transfers, and personnel decisions, the stress he put on himself was detrimental to the team, and the board had the responsibility to alleviate that stress. They never did, and the stress showed in the summer of 2015. Arsenal brought in Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in the previous two summer windows, but the club only signed Petr Cech in 2015.
The worst part about that 2015/16 season for the Gunners? Leicester City won the league. Arsenal ended the season 10 points off the top spot, but had they signed a defensive midfielder, a center back, and a striker, they probably would have won the Premier League, or put up a fight for the top spot at the very least. The north London giants beat the Foxes in both fixtures, the first by a score of 5-2. Injuries and dropped points to beatable teams plagued Arsenal, yet fans wonder if more signings and the board giving Wenger some help with transfers would have led the club to their first league title since 2003/04.
Fans need to hold the board at Arsenal as accountable as Wenger for the club’s failures in recent years. It starts with Stan Kroenke, the club’s mysterious owner who would rather spend time at his $725 million ranch in Texas than in the owner’s box at Emirates Stadium. He has never dipped into his personal bank account to aid the team in the transfer market and only looks to make a profit although he clearly has the resources to build a winning team.
The apathetic rule of Stan Kroenke will end soon. Kroenke wants his son Josh to take over the team as 70-year-old Stan gets close to retirement, and the 37-year-old knows the issues going on at the club and wants things to improve. His experience in both the Premier League and the United States’ National Basketball Association will prove invaluable once he assumes power. Josh Kroenke has already invested himself into life at Arsenal, and it also helps that his parents have more than $14 billion in their bank account.
Every issue and success surrounding a football club involves the board. Now with Raul Sanllehi involved with transfers and Josh Kroenke primed to take over his dad’s role as owner, the board gets stronger by the day. The board failed many times in the transfer market and let Arsene Wenger walk all over them for about 10 years as the Gunners descended into mediocrity. These additions to the backroom, provided they have more involvement with the club and learn from the current board’s many mistakes, will push Arsenal Football Club back into the highest echelons of English football where they belong.