Why Arsenal Owner Stan Kroenke Has Let the Club Down

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2013

EARTH CITY, MO - JANUARY 17: St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke addresses the media during a press conference at the Russell Training Center on January 17, 2012 in Earth City, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

When Stan Kroenke took over the majority shareholding in Arsenal Football Club, most fans considered it a positive thing.

Here was a bona fide billionaire who seemed to be on good terms with the Arsenal board. He seemed certain to continue the careful custodianship of the club that the Hill-Wood family and others have practiced for generations.

However, things have soured since then. On the pitch, Arsenal have struggled for consistency. No trophies have arrived, and the natives are becoming restless. Initially, the fans' ire was aimed primarily at manager Arsene Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis. The supporters have openly questioned the competency of both men in their respective roles.

Throughout this period, Kroenke has been a phantom-like figure at Arsenal, only occasionally appearing at games and barely uttering a word to the media. Perhaps he was seeking to escape the line of fire. However, the fans' anger is finally turning towards the man at the top of the pyramid.

When Kroenke purchased Arsenal and bought into its existing values, he also bought into its self-sustaining economic model. At the time, this was deemed as sensible.

Supporters were worried about becoming the play thing of an investor like Alisher Usmanov. Arsenal fans have never aspired to follow the Chelsea model and become subject to the whims of a volatile billionaire.

However, this kind of self-sustaining model can only really function when the club actually spends the money that it earns. The problem is that Arsenal's money is not on the pitch, it's in the bank.

Some suggest Arsenal's frugality is the result of Arsene Wenger's reluctance to dip into the transfer market. In the past, David Dein might have convinced Wenger that signing the odd player was beneficial or even necessary. Now, the manager exists in something of an executive vacuum. Stan Kroenke is probably the one man able to exert any influence over the manager to actually use the funds available to him, but he is so distanced from the situation (often literally) that such an eventuality seems inconceivable.

The biggest fear for Arsenal fans is that Wenger's penny-pinching suits Kroenke. The club continue to turn a tidy profit without massive expenditure. At the moment, it looks to have been a sensible investment of the American's millions.

Arsenal continue to achieve fourth place and Champions League qualification in spite of selling off their major stars every summer. The bank balance is healthy. The atmosphere around the club, however, is not.

Fourth spot is good enough for the economists. It certainly seems to be good enough for Kroenke. It is not good enough for the supporters, however.

Arsenal fans want to see their club challenging for top honours. They don't want to be kept ticking over, doing just enough to remain along the elite without ever being truly competitive.

The fear is that things will have to get worse before they get better. Kroenke has never known Arsenal to fall out of the Champions League. Perhaps from his Denver base he cannot accurately gauge how close Arsenal are to dropping out of Europe's top competition.

If they do, then Kroenke may be forced in to action. Until then, however, he seems content to let Arsenal spiral into decline.