Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke understands some things that most fans find hard to accept: the goal of every professional sports club is to consistently field a competitive team within its financial abilities – not to win a championships.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to win but as an owner, there are only two aspects in which he can influence his team: hiring good staff; and providing the adequate funds necessary for roster building.
Not everything that happens afterwards can be controlled.
Arsenal fans tend to overlook the team’s success in consistently reaching the Champions League, which is the financial building rock of every powerhouse in European football, because they are frustrated by the lack of trophies in the last few years, or the lack of “star power” on the field.
However, Kroenke has learned a valuable lesson from one of his Basketball team, Denver Nuggets. And I think he is starting to implement it in his football team as well.
Anthony was not happy in Denver and wanted a trade to New York Knicks, whose owner was so eager to land him. Because Anthony was regarded as a “Super Star” (He was a good scorer) the Knicks were willing to trade 3 starting players for him.
The result was clear: the Nuggets were, and still are ,better off – both on the field and financially – than the Knicks.
The lesson for Kroenke was not that obvious: Either he learned that the “superstar assumption” – a team cannot excel without one – is false, or he simply learned that others don’t have the statistical tools to appreciate who’s a real contributor to his team’s performance.
As to the superstar assumption, Kroenke and his Nuggets are still exploring it. They have a relatively ego-free team, set to be one of the strongest teams in the already super competitive western division.
Since most sports teams are run by dumbass owners, this model is not yet copied.
Owners and managers still hire and overpay for players they like or players that have an “aura” of a superstar.
The players with that aura are usually players that do the things we overvalue – such as scoring – and undervalue the real contributors to a team’s chances of winning (such as efficient scorers and rebounders).
We can never be sure what Silent Stan is thinking but I have a hunch that he wants Arsenal to use statistical tools to build a cheap competitive team – like he has done in Denver. Can it work in football? We’ll have to wait and see.
Only if the Nuggets win it all, this model will finally be copied all over professional sports. And in this regard, Arsenal would be well ahead of its competitors.
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