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In not firing Unai Emery, KSE embrace mediocrity

Despite protestations, KSE’s failure to fire Unai Emery indicates that their vision of Arsenal is one of mediocrity

Arsenal FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Often, it is actions that speak louder than words. This is very true for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, who own Arsenal. Stan Kroenke is famously reticent, having earned the moniker “Silent Stan.” In the summer, in the wake of the #WeCareDoYou movement, Josh Kroenke gave an interview, which acknowledged some fans concerns, and also contained, in what may come to be seen as famous last words, the younger Kroenke saying, “Get excited.” Most Arsenal fans were, rightfully, skeptical. But then the Kroenkes backed up their summer statement, with Arsenal spending a significant amount of money in the summer on William Saliba, Kieran Tierney, and Nicolas Pepe.

In not acting to fire Unai Emery, the Kroenkes actions are again speaking louder than their words. In an interview with David Ornstein in the summer, Josh Kroenke said, “I tell our group - across all of our organisations, all of our teams - you’re only as good as your last game.” If that is truly the case, then Kroenke cannot be under the impression that Arsenal are any good, having failed to win in the Premier League since October 6. They have 3 points from their last five Premier League games, and are now 8 points off of Chelsea in 4th place. Most damaging is that three of those games were relatively easy games, at home.

But you know all this. If you’re reading this article, you are familiar with Arsenal’s form, and familiar with the reasons that Arsenal should sack Unai Emery, should’ve sacked him weeks ago, and really, if Arsenal were truly ambitious, should’ve been sacked in May after failing to qualify for the Champions League. But Arsenal have not done that.

If you ask the Kroenkes, they will tell you they are ambitious. So will Vinai Venketesham and Raul Sanllehi. Indeed, Kroenke said as much to Ornstein:

We have the highest of ambitions. In north America, we are trying to win. The Rams were in the Super Bowl last year. I can only imagine what a Champions League final is like after being over in Baku. Our ambitions are the same as the fans. We want to win and we want to win as much and as often as possible. And doing it in a fun way, where they’re seeing some really entertaining football as well.

Arsenal are failing to live up to that ambition. Arsenal are not winning; Arsenal are not playing in a fun way; Arsenal are not going to qualify for the Champions League, which Arsenal’s hierarchy has admitted is a must. But it is one thing to say that you are ambitious, and that you want to win; it is another thing to do something about it when you are not. It is clear to everyone that under Unai Emery, Arsenal are not going to live up to their stated ambitions. In not acting to rectify the situation, KSE’s actions speak louder than their words. In this case, in not sacking Emery, in continuing to back him by employing him, they are embracing the mediocrity that he brings, with Arsenal on pace for their worst seasons since 1994-95, the last season George Graham managed the club.

Josh Kroenke has said, repeatedly, that he is a leader, and that he embraces that role, saying in the wake of Arsenal’s Europa League final demolition by Chelsea, “I knew that my job as a leader was to try to pull everybody back up.” The reactions of the players on Saturday, barely celebrating a last minute equalizer, indicate a group that needs leadership, which they are not getting from the mediocre head coach who is out of his depth. But again, they are being failed. The leadership is not coming from the board, or from the ownership group, the managing director or the technical director. The only thing those individuals are doing are re-arranging the deck chairs as they watch Arsenal’s season sink before their very eyes.