The same deep pockets, but that’s where Kroenke and Abramovich similarities end

The same deep pockets, but that’s where Kroenke and Abramovich similarities end
Stan Kroenke, Arsenal shareholder seen in the stands during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Burnley at Emirates Stadium on May 6, 2018 in London, England. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Mikel Arteta went on the defensive when I suggested his Arsenal have a big gap to close between themselves and today's FA Cup final opponents Chelsea.

Maybe it was big match bravado refusing to allow him any sign of weakness ahead of the biggest match of his short managerial career.

The Premier League's youngest head coach, 38, freely admits there is possibly years of work to be done on and off the pitch for Arsenal to catch up with champions Liverpool as well as his former club Manchester City.

But Chelsea? Arteta has every chance of upsetting the odds and leading Arsenal to a repeat of their 2017 Cup Final win when they denied Antonio Conte's Chelsea the Double, but there is a strong argument pointing to a structural and financial gulf between the clubs, greater than the ten points that separated them in the final Premier League table.

Asked for his take on the two clubs, Arteta claimed: “I do not know about Chelsea's structure and resources, but we can see the squad they have at the moment and the amount of players they have. We can see the quality of players and good work that they are doing.

“But we have some good players as well, we are working well too, and we are an incredible club as well. I think we are both in a good position.”

Maybe they are and Arsenal do look and feel to be on an upward curve since Arteta replaced Arsene Wenger's less than convincing successor Unai Emery.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (centre) speaks to his team during the drinks break during the Premier League match at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium earlier this month. Picture: PA
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (centre) speaks to his team during the drinks break during the Premier League match at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium earlier this month. Picture: PA

End of season victories against Liverpool and their FA Cup semi-final tactical take down of Man City show that, but one only has to look at recent transfer activity to see how the two clubs operate on different levels.

While all the talk around Arsenal is whether or not they can persuade star player and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay and extend his contract while still having the funds and stardust to attract other top players, Chelsea have already spent close to €100m and there is the promise of more to come.

It helps Chelsea, of course, that Frank Lampard has led them to Champions League qualification in his first season in charge while Arsenal have to win today just to get into the Europa League.

They have not played in the Champions League since their 10-2 aggregate humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in 2017 and having traded at a loss in the last financial year now face further restructuring without the income and allure of competing for Europe's elite trophy for yet another year.

Chelsea won last year's Europa League, thrashing Arsenal 4-1 in the bizarre Baku final and are now more of a fixture in competing for trophies than Arsenal, despite the north London club's gloriously successful heritage.

They allowed their talisman, Eden Hazard, to sign for Real Madrid after he ran that final and their ensuing summer transfer ban placed Lampard in an unenviable position at the start of his tenure at a time when owner Roman Abramovich's interest in the club was being questioned.

The Russian-Israeli had and still has been denied re-entry to the UK over visa issues and there was talk of the club being on the market for over €2bn.

That notion has seriously subsided after it emerged he has invested a further €250m in Chelsea this year, bringing his total commitment close to €1 billion since he revolutionised the club with his free-spending after buying it in 2003.

He has also delivered on transfer market promises to Lampard by bringing in striker Timo Werner and attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech, two of the most coveted players in Europe for a combined €100m this summer.

There is the promise of more to come in the form of Bayer Leverkusen winger Kai Havertz and Leicester's England international defender Ben Chilwell.

Lampard will also be backed if he chooses to offload increasingly unreliable goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga even if it means taking a hit on the record €79m they paid for him.

Only time will tell if Arteta receives similar support from Arsenal's American owner Stan Kroenke and the Kroenke Sports and Entertainment company.

He and they also own NFL side the LA Rams, basketball franchise the Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids, Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League, the Los Angeles Gladiators of the Overwatch League, and the newly formed Los Angeles Guerrillas of the Call of Duty League.

No wonder he does not get much time to go to Arsenal matches and has delegated much responsibility to his son, Josh.

Like Abramovich, Kroenke's wealth is estimated around the €12bn mark, but that is where the similarity ends.

Stan Kroenke, owner of the then St Louis Rams  addressing the media during a press conference at the Russell Training Center in 2012. Picture: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Stan Kroenke, owner of the then St Louis Rams  addressing the media during a press conference at the Russell Training Center in 2012. Picture: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Arteta has repeatedly insisted in recent weeks he has and values the full backing of Kroenke and the gang, but this summer's activity will be telling.

Emery was well backed last summer and Arteta will need the same if he is to make Arsenal a challenging side again.

The Spaniard will select three of the class of 2017 to start against Chelsea today – Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Granit Xhaka, while Olivier Giroud will be in the Chelsea blue.

Also make a return appearance will be David Luiz, except this time in Arsenal's new red strip. Lampard, 42, will look to the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta and possibly N'Golo Kante, Marcus Alonso, Willian and Pedro trying to gain revenge for Conte's vanquished Wembley side.

Either way, all talk of finances, recruitment and restructuring will not be on the mind of either coach when they stand issuing instructions from the side of the pitch in the first-ever August FA Cup Final with the chance to win a first significant trophy for their respective clubs.

Football behind closed doors lays bare the thoughts of players and managers alike as we see and hear their match day emotions so clearly played out in front of us and this could be the most intense such an occasion yet since matches resumed.

No crowds to respond to, no families to wave at and no post-match party, but the sentiments remain the same: ‘may the best team win.’

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