I’m back, fellas, and I must say, it’s a fun time to be an Arsenal fan. This is now my third Le Grove column for the 2018-19 season, and if you told me we’d be level on points with Chelsea and Spurs, sitting two points behind the leaders, I’d have called that the best case scenario.
(Not. bloody. likely.)
I admit, I’ve been optimistic since the beginning of the Emery era, but pretty-much-no-one thought we’d be sitting where we are, in the midst of a 10 game winning streak, so I won’t pretend I expected this.
It’s hard to offer commentary at times like this, because what can I say that yesterday’s game didn’t declare on global television: beautiful football is back.
If the Aaron Ramsey wonder-flick the other week piqued people’s interest in The Arsenal, Mesut Ozil’s technical masterclass put us back on the map, and has raised hopes higher than I was after my trip to a reefer dispensary in Boulder a few weeks ago.
Writing as I do from the American perspective, I must say that legal marijuana is the gift that keeps on giving. Why the rest of the world hasn’t caught on that Mary Jane is fun and beneficial is beyond me, but given the realities of Capitalism, you can bet the cash flow has fascinated the mega-corporations that will ensconce the weed industry in the 21st Century.
I was just telling someone in California last week that when they first approved the program in Colorado, they had completely different systems for in-state and out-of-state residents.
Different rules on how much you could buy.
It was annoying, and slightly discriminatory, as why would you want to soak the tourists bringing money into your economy?
There was little sense in the rules, so as they figured out what they were doing up there, (I live 35 minutes south of the border,) the system became more efficient, and now they’ve got it dialed in.
One price for all, (tax included,) and more types of THC delivery systems than there are languages spoken in London.
The tax dollars fund the school systems, the Denver metro area is booming beyond belief, and cool-kid-states like California are racing to catch up.
Sometimes, it takes a while for major organizations to figure out what the fuck they’re doing. Typically, once the money gets rolling, and the experience levels up, positive results will follow.
In this case, I’m using the weed industry as METAPHOR for KSE, the sports conglomerate we all love to hate. (Or used to, anyway.)
Honestly, in a multi-billion dollar sports industry, can you believe how many people lost their shit over the little $3 million fee that Stan and Josh were paying themselves for “consulting” a few years back?
They insisted they were willing to spend money, did the Kroenkes, (through their mouthpiece Gazidis,) only Arsene Wenger was too cheap to take what they were offering.
According to that narrative, our former, all-powerful, manager/General Manager had a point to prove, with respect to winning without money, but he no longer had the chops to pull his vision off.
I was dubious, and personally made fun of Stan et al many times in my previous column.
It was not as much fun as mocking Mourinho, sure, but between his silly mustache, and his whole “I married Walmart money, bitches!” attitude, it was easy to mock Stan.
Beyond everything, though, was the obvious mediocrity he seemed to support in his other major clubs, the “then” St. Louis Rams, Denver Nuggets, and Colorado Avalanche.
(The Colorado theme makes sense, right?)
But now it’s 2018, Stan’s “American” football team plays in LA, and is the best in the league at present. His stadium may be behind schedule, but once it’s done, not only will his team play there, but the now-LA-Chargers will too, meaning he’ll be making mad cash off of both teams in the 2nd largest market in the US.
Even better, after years of not-mattering-at-all, the Nuggets are ALL the sportswriters’ favorite trendy-team this year, and they just knocked off the 3x champion Golden State Warriors.
All of a sudden, within the span of two years, Kroenkes Sr and Jr went from laughing stocks, (who didn’t understand the connection between brand value and winning,) to progressive owners who’ve empowered grinder coaches to build winners from the ground up.
Sean McVay, the Rams coach, comes from a famous, multi-generational football family, and is known for being young, obsessed, and ahead of the curve with his ideas.
The team spent mega-bucks on several important players, (Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks,) and is the envy of the NFL.
As for the Nuggets, their coach, Mike Malone, is also a second-generation NBA coach, and looks like the kind of guy who sleeps on his office couch, in his rumpled suit, because he’d rather eat glass than stop working.
Again, this is all public knowledge. Look it up.
The Kroenkes, seemingly out of nowhere, are building winners and brand awareness simultaneously. They’re hiring determined talent, at the player, front office and coaching levels, and entrusting them to make some fucking money.
Does this sound familiar?
I’ve already come out in favor of Unai, Sven and Raul, and I hate to repeat myself. I also pointed out last month that Arsenal now have 2 verifiable match-winners, and a newfound winning mentality.
We also have 2 midfielders who, if we had guys like that during the late-Wenger era, might have made the difference between 6th and 4th, or 2nd and 1st. (Yes, I mean Guendouzi and Torriera, both of whom I’ve name dropped in each column so far.)
Last month, I ended the blog by suggesting that after 5 wins on the trot, we’d know a lot more in a month.
Now, it’s October 23rd, (when I’m writing,) and the winning streak has doubled.
I wrote about the emphasis on development, and making players better, and we’ve had drool-worthy performances from Alex Iwobi, Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil, not exactly players who flourished in the previous, super-stale regime.
So now what? Where do we go from here?
Honestly, I don’t know. (We’ll have to watch and see what happens.) But it’s possible that KSE has finally figured out how to not just own clubs, but support them properly.
And even if Stan only cares about money, and figured out that winning brings more, who gives a shit?
All we want are trophies and beautiful football, and we’ve already got the latter.
Why not more?
Follow me at @jblauphoto