Premier League match preview: Arsenal v Chelsea
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It is fair to say that Stan Kroenke is still a far from popular figure amongst Arsenal supporters. The American billionaire faced protests against his ownership of the club in the wake of the controversial European Super League plans earlier this year. And the majority of fans remain desperate for him to sell up and pass the baton on to someone else.
However, Kroenke has put his money where his mouth is so far this summer, with the Gunners spending £125m in the transfer window so far – more than any other Premier League team.
The 74-year-old is clearly aware that things could turn very ugly very quickly unless Mikel Arteta’s side start challenging for major honours quickly.
And he will be desperately hoping things turn around on the pitch soon following the desperately disappointing 2-0 defeat to newly-promoted Brentford on the opening day of the campaign.
On Sunday Arsenal return to the Emirates with a full capacity for the first time since before the pandemic when they take on London rivals Chelsea.
And Kroenke took the opportunity to make rare contact with supporters via a message in the pre-match programme.
While he made reference to the new signings, it came as something of a surprise to see Kroenke also single out Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka for praise, lauding the “stability and balance” he brings to the team.
The 28-year-old was widely expected to leave this summer, and was strongly linked with a move to Roma before it broke down at the last minute.
In the end, however, he has decided to stay, and looks set to sign a new contract much to the bemusement of some supporters, many of whom have had a rocky relationship with the often-controversial figure.
In his notes, Kroenke wrote: “We know there is much work to get back to where we need to be but are confident about what can be achieved by this great club and our people.
“We are building a squad, rich in young talent, much of it developed through our wonderful academy.
“It is clear looking across Europe that we are dealing with a difficult transfer market due to the impacts of the pandemic but at the time of writing we are delighted to have signed Nuno Tavares, Sambi Lokonga and Ben White.
“We have also renewed the deals of Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe, both on a long-term basis.
“These are all young players that we are convinced can develop further and have a bright future with us.
“They are supported by a strong core of more experienced players including Granit Xhaka, who has signed a new contract.
“This is an important step in terms of maintaining stability and balance in the squad.
“In the meantime, the transfer negotiating team has been working hard behind the scenes to improve the squad further.”
Xhaka is likely to start alongside Lokonga against Chelsea, and will be out to make a point and show that the club were right to keep him around.
After the clash against the Blues things do not get any easier for Arsenal, with a trip to Manchester City next weekend following a Carabao Cup second-round tie versus West Brom on Tuesday.
And the pressure could well start to grow for both Arteta and Kroenke unless things improve very soon.
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