?Arsenal director Josh Kroenke, son of owner Stan, has explained how the Gunners’ humiliation in the Europa League final last season caused the club to use ‘aggressive’ methods in this summer’s transfer market.
After losing 4-1 to Chelsea in Azerbaijan, Arsenal were condemned to their third consecutive year without Champions League football at the Emirates, losing financial benefits and their appeal to the world’s top players.
Four second half goals from Chelsea shook Arsenal’s foundations, forcing them to rethink their strategy for the upcoming transfer window and beyond.
Speaking to ?BBC Sport, Kroenke said: “As the second half of the match unfolded, understanding the position we were in and some of the targets as we headed into the summer from a transfer standpoint, we had to rethink some of our strategy based on that last 45 minutes.
“We knew we wouldn’t have Champions League football and that’s what those type of talents are after. My main message to Vinai [Venkatesham, managing director] and Raul [Sanllehi, head of football] coming back from Baku on the plane and then throughout meetings all day the following day with them and Unai [Emery, head coach], was: ‘Let’s be aggressive and find out what’s possible’.”
The Gunners were one of the Premier League’s biggest spenders this summer, bringing in Nicolas Pepe for a new club record fee of £72m, along with Dani Ceballos (on loan from Real Madrid), Kieran Tierney and David Luiz.
On the success of Arsenal’s recruitment, the American said: “I think we had a very strong summer. We addressed certain areas on the pitch for this season and in the years ahead. We had certain age profiles that we were after. Without Champions League football we weren’t exactly sure, but I encouraged our football operations department to be aggressive and when Arsenal Football Club knocks on a player’s door it’s a different knock.
“This summer, even though we weren’t in a position of strength coming out of Baku, I think there were a few people caught off guard that Arsenal Football Club still has the aura that it does. We’re excited to keep pushing that now and into the future.”
A degree of confusion remains concerning how Arsenal were able to spend so much when they only had a reported budget of £45m to spend. Sales of Alex Iwobi and Laurent Koscielny did little to recuperate the club’s spending which was well in excess of £100m.
Responding the questions over whether there had been a cash injection from the owners, Kroenke stated: “I’m not going to go into too much detail – people can read between the lines of being aggressive and what that might mean. It’s going to be a private matter for us here at the club, but I hope our fans understand that by being aggressive that’s exactly what we were.
“Going into the summer we knew we were going to have instruments in place that were going to allow us to be aggressive and they weren’t going to be dependent on sales. The guys went out, worked their magic and I’m happy to have them on our side.”
The 39-year-old dismissed claims that their transfer business was provoked by pressure from fans: “I would say that if you’re reacting and doing club record signings based on public opinion, you’re not going to go very far as a club. We weren’t reactive this summer, we were actually proactive.”
The Arsenal director also hinted that the club’s recruitment this season may not be over, adding: “As for January, I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We’ve got to evaluate some things in the short term and figure out where we might need to address going forward, so when January does roll around we’re going to be proactive again.”