Feature

Official Voice: Josh Kroenke

Josh Kroenke with Mikel Arteta

Every issue we have heard exclusively from significant figures at the club on our Official Voice pages of the matchday programme. To finish the season we feature Josh Kroenke, on behalf of our owners, the Kroenke Family. The full article is produced below.

Looking back over this season, the first group of people I want to talk about is you – our fans.

What you have done this season is unite behind the team. Unity is a key word around the club – you will hear Mikel use it frequently – and there has been unity, from our supporters to our players, unity within our coaches, and unity amongst everyone across the club. It’s a big positive that’s only going to help us in the future.

In particular, it has been fantastic to see you get behind our young squad in such a positive manner. It’s very important and makes us so happy to have you behind us in this way and see that you are excited for a bright future.

It feels like there’s a young, fiercely loyal group of fans coming through, alongside those who have been with us for many seasons. We’re a club that has an amazing history and you can hang your hat on that and also, we can build our club on that, but some of our younger supporters weren’t around for the amazing glory years which is what we are chasing today, with the help of all of you.

We have to honour past successes, respect the achievements, remember great players, coaches and decision-makers who put the club in a position to succeed, but also carve out our own niche with the great institution that is Arsenal Football Club. All of you are going to help us do just that.

On the pitch there have been experiences this season, positive and negative, that this team has gone through for the first time that will serve them very well going forward.

The team will learn and develop because we know we have the right culture at the club.

The team and fans have built a connection this season

From a coaching standpoint, Mikel studies and works as hard as anyone in the game so I think that was always going to be there, but we have also worked on how we build on and respect Arsenal traditions, while carving out the future. It’s been a very exciting and fulfilling thing for me to see this season.

That foundation of culture is really being laid, from a young players’ standpoint but also from other players around the dressing room, like Granit Xhaka and Alex Lacazette for example, who have seen different things during their careers and have provided huge support to such a young group, which speaks volumes about them.

These senior players understand there will be bumps in the road and be patient as team-mates learn on the job. I think the senior players and the coaching staff have struck a fine balance this season and that’s how we made strong progress on the pitch.

As a club we need to make sure we are buying well, players who can elevate us in terms of quality but also players who are right from the perspective of culture and mentality and I think that showed on a number of occasions this season.

When our backs were against the wall with results and injuries we responded well. Yes, we’re in a tough position right now after the last few matches in terms of qualifying for the Champions League, but I think the lessons learned along the way will serve us very well going into the future. Sometimes feeling a level of frustration is the best motivation you can have.

In those tough moments, when we’ve had opportunities as a squad, as a staff, as a club, to fracture slightly, I think with this group and the mental fortitude that we have now, we all came closer together. Like the three defeats to start the season. I think those moments brought us closer together across the whole club and I think that’s what’s served us well.

We have a group of people that are very tightly knit and are passionate about Arsenal Football Club getting to the top of the European game and I think they have the work ethic to go ahead and get it.

Kroenke - "I will always defer to Edu and Mikel on recruitment"

There have been a lot of changes in our squad in the last few years and I know the work still isn’t done. In terms of bringing more players in, we would have liked to have moved faster in certain areas but there are some factors out of our control when you are on the back of a global pandemic and I think internally we recognise that there’s still much work to be done.

On a recruitment standpoint I will always defer to Edu and Mikel but I know they have a blueprint of the type of player and specific positions that we need to reinforce heading into the summer, so I’ll defer to them and support them in every way that we can in their pursuit of elevating the quality of the squad and also ensuring that we have the right mentality of player coming in.

We only want players who are passionate about Arsenal Football Club.

Players arrive from other clubs, but are also elevated from our junior ranks, as is very obvious at Arsenal with Bukayo, Emile, and Eddie making such huge contributions this season. The academy has been a really bright spot that receives great focus at our club.

When you have a lot of turnover in the squad like we had, you create opportunities for those young players and credit to them as they have really seized the opportunity. When young players taste a bite of the apple at first-team level, they only want another bite and I think that’s a tribute to the players and the staff for their internal hunger. And for as much frustration they feel now, because I know they really want that Champions League opportunity, we are always going to keep trying to pursue it and I think it’s a very exciting thing for our supporters to know that that hunger resides in those young players.

Earlier this month we signed both Mikel Arteta and Jonas Eidevall to new contracts.

Firstly, making that announcement together was important for the club. It shows what we are and our priorities.

Mikel has made great strides since he joined the club at the end of 2019 and again, I would point to the culture and foundations that he has helped lay in a short period at a very difficult time. We have regularly mentioned that no matter what happens in the coming years, I don’t think anything can be as challenging as what the club has had to deal with in the past two and a half years.

No one could see the challenges of a global pandemic and I’m very encouraged by what everyone has done in unprecedented circumstances. As a club we feel we are heading in the right direction.

We know we are only as good as our last match but when we look at larger trends, those trends are very much pointing in the right direction and it was felt we needed to make sure that heading into the summer, specifically from a recruitment standpoint, every player that we were discussing coming into the club knew the direction and the people that they were going to be working with.

As for Jonas, I have to start with the person, who is just as impressive if not more impressive than the coach. Having had a chance to spend time with him and understand some of his philosophies as a person I think that translates so well to him being a successful manager.

I think as a club we have always seen the women’s game as a priority. We’ve done that historically, and we want to make sure we continue to do that in the future too – and the future of the women’s game is very bright.

Jonas is leading us in a wonderful direction, we have some fantastic players but I know there are also areas we can improve. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of Arsenal Women who are at the vanguard of the growth of the game. We will see them play more and more games at Emirates Stadium and I don’t think there’s any substitute from an energy standpoint than when the players feel that crowd behind them at Emirates.

Mikel Arteta x Jonas Eidevall

The managers of both the men's and women's first teams, Mikel Arteta and Jonas Eidevall, extended their contracts in May

It’s a unique environment as far as I’m concerned and to have Arsenal Women play more games here is only going to benefit them and the club as a whole.

Lastly, I signed off the piece I wrote for the first home game of the season ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’ and Victory Through Harmony is actually a phrase that I have taken with me to other areas of my personal life and other areas of my businesses and sports teams – I think it’s so powerful.

It can have a lot of meanings but for us this season, Victory Through Harmony meant that behind the scenes we stayed unified – there’s that word again. We stayed unified when there were times of immense pressure and heat, that’s how you forge diamonds. And so, I think that moving forward, hopefully this club starts to see a few of those polished diamonds start to shine through, because they’ve been forged in some very tough environments.

On behalf of my father and I, thank you for your support.

Josh Kroenke

(On behalf of the Kroenke family)

This article first appeared in the matchday programme. All issues can be purchased here.

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