Are you watching Arsenal fans? Kroenke's LA Rams on brink of Super Bowl glory

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The Gunners owner continues to be questioned by the Emirates Stadium faithful, but in California he is loved ahead of Sunday's showdown in Atlanta

On Sunday, a team owned by Stan Kroenke will walk out onto the pitch, led by their innovative young coach whom all their rivals are now attempting to ape, in a quest to win a historic title.

Unfortunately for Arsenal and their supporters, that team will not be the Gunners at the Etihad Stadium.

Instead, around five hours after the full-time whistle blows on Unai Emery’s side’s Premier League encounter with Manchester City, the LA Rams - Kroenke’s NFL franchise - will stride out aiming to win Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

Arsenal fans’ lack of love for Kroenke is well established by now, with the Emirates Stadium faithful yet again left scratching their heads during the latest January transfer window. Emery was told in no uncertain terms there were not the funds available to sign players on a permanent basis, with loan deals the only possibility.

Given Kroenke has an estimated personal fortune of $8.5 billion (£6.5bn) and took complete control of the north London outfit in August 2018, that, some would argue, is bordering on negligence. After just over a decade of almost complete radio silence since joining the club’s board of directors - a period which has also coincided with a lack of major trophies and the loss of regular Champions League football - it is no surprise that Arsenal fans’ patience wore thin with the 71-year-old some time ago.

Over in Los Angeles, though, he could not be more popular.

Having brought the team back to California following 20 years in St Louis – a decision that was met with outrage by his fellow Missourians after he previously claimed he would “attempt to do everything that I can to keep the Rams in St. Louis” - Kroenke was already something of a hero even before the current crop booked their place alongside the New England Patriots (dubbed by many the 'Manchester United of the NFL') at the biggest event of the United States sporting calendar.

He has forked out $5bn (£3.8bn) for a new 70,000-seater stadium in Inglewood following the decision to move the team from the Midwest to the Pacific Coast, and while the NFL salary cap means paying for players does not carry the same weight as within the Premier League, Kroenke’s sign-off on head coach Sean McVay may well become the defining moment of his ownership.

Stan Kroenke GFX

Twelve days before his 31st birthday, McVay signed a five-year contract with the Rams, and in doing so became the youngest head coach in NFL history.

In his debut campaign in charge, the team reached the play-offs for the first time in 13 years, became the first team in the Super Bowl era to go from the lowest scorers to the highest in the space of a season and was voted Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.

His sophomore could now end in Super Bowl glory for just the second time in franchise history, and a first for them in Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly teams up and down the U.S. are falling over themselves in a bid to discover the “next Sean McVay”.

Kroenke himself played his part in the appointment, meeting McVay for dinner personally to study the babyfaced tactician’s blueprints for success. Suitably impressed, it is a risk which has paid off handsomely thus far.

Sean McVay Jared Goff LA Rams

“They could have hated each other,” Rams general manager Les Snead said of the meeting. “But we had an intuition. The nice thing with Stan is that Stan is very innovative. He appreciates the young entrepreneurs, people like that in the business world who are bright and making a mark on the planet. So I don’t think it felt like an uphill battle.”

All this might sound somewhat familiar to Arsenal fans, given their pursuit of Mikel Arteta as the potential successor to Arsene Wenger just 12 months ago.

Driven by former chief executive Ivan Gazidis, the Gunners pushed to bring ex-club captain Arteta back to north London with him having spent time learning the coaching ropes from Pep Guardiola at Man City. Highly-rated by the former Barcelona boss, Arteta has even been given opportunities to take defacto charge of City’s side in previous games, even when Guardiola himself has remained on the touchline.

Everything was seemingly in place for Arteta to step into the hotseat, only for Emery to come from the relative wilderness and take over following his own sacking by Paris Saint-Germain. Why the change of heart?

It is understood that the Kroenke family were reluctant to hand the keys to the kingdom to an unproven coach with no history of winning trophies, and as such Emery got the nod. Quite why their philosophy with Arsenal is so different compared to the Rams is only known to them.

Stan Kroenke Arsenal

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And so while Emery has done a more than passable job during his first six months at the helm, there is always likely to be that niggling feeling at the back of many Arsenal fans’ minds as to what might have been had Arteta been handed the reins, particularly if he does go onto be a success elsewhere. Have Arsenal and Kroenke missed their chance to secure their own Sean McVay? Quite possibly.

Whether McVay becomes a Super Bowl-winning coach or not, it is clear that his hiring is the greatest success of Kroenke’s Rams reign thus far. The veteran businessman’s celebrations following the Rams’ divisional play-off win over the Dallas Cowboys in mid-January showed just how much the performances of McVay’s team meant to him, and those scenes will only be intensified should the ultimate prize be secured on Sunday evening.

What Arsenal fans would give for just a fraction of that passion when it comes to Kroenke’s running of their club. There are unlikely to be many cheering the Rams on in the early hours of Monday morning in north London, that's for sure.

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