Arsenal director Josh Kroenke said the club’s activity in the summer transfer market shows they still have an “aura”.
The Gunners, despite public protests at the Kroenkes’ ownership, spent north of £100million in bringing Gabriel Martinelli, Dani Ceballos, William Saliba, Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney and David Luiz to the Emirates Stadium.
Kroenke admitted the club’s transfer policy required a dramatic rethink after last season’s second-half capitulation to Chelsea in the Europa League final condemned them to another year out of the Champions League.
But Kroenke – the son of owner Stan – says the Gunners will have turned heads since.
“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,” he told BBC Sport. “We’re excited to keep pushing that now and into the future.
“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.
“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 Kroenkes received strong criticism from supporters over the summer, but Josh said their transfer activity was not a response to shut fans up.
“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,” he added. “We weren’t reactive this summer, we were actually proactive.
“It was unfortunate that the summer unfolded publicly the way it did with some of the supporters’ groups. I tried to answer some of their concerns to the best of our ability.”
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England women’s manager Phil Neville has called for the football community to “send a powerful message” and boycott social media for six months in response to the rise in racist abuse of players after Paul Pogba was targeted online after missing a penalty for Manchester United at Wolves.
“I just wonder whether now, as a football community, in terms of really sending a powerful message is come off social media. Six months, let’s come off social media. Let’s see the effect that it has on the social media companies, whether they are really going to do something about it,” Neville said.
Pogba saw his 68th-minute spot-kick saved by Rui Patricio as United dropped points in the Premier League.
In a statement, United said: “Everyone at Manchester United is disgusted by the racial abuse aimed at Paul Pogba last night and we utterly condemn it.”
Pogba became the third footballer in England to suffer such abuse in the space of a week following a missed spot-kick, with racist abuse also directed at Reading’s Yakou Meite and Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham in recent days.
Other fans were quick to condemn some of the posts seen on Monday night, many of which were subsequently deleted, though a number of highly-offensive posts about Pogba remained on Twitter and were easily found. Twitter has been asked for comment.
United’s statement continued: “The individuals who expressed these views do not represent the values of our great club and it is encouraging to see the vast majority of our fans condemn this on social media also.
“Manchester United has zero tolerance of any form of racism or discrimination and a long-standing commitment to campaigning against it through our #AllRedAllEqual initiative.
“We will work to identify the few involved in these incidents and take the strongest course of action available to us. We also encourage social media companies to take action in these cases.”
Pogba’s miss came after an apparent debate with Marcus Rashford over who should step up to take the penalty, and the England striker was quick to condemn the abuse which came his team-mate’s way.
Disgusting. Social media need to do something about it... Every account that is opened should be verified by a passport/driving licence. Stop these pathetic trolls making numerous accounts to abuse people. @Twitter @instagram https://t.co/bzow073aTw— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) August 20, 2019
As United said in their own statement, the abuse directed at Pogba, Meite and Abraham will further increase the pressure on social media networks to take action themselves.
Anti-discrimination campaign group Kick It Out echoed that view in its own statement.
“The latest round of fixtures have again seen unwarranted and vile racist abuse sent to players. This time, Reading’s Yakou Meite and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba,” it said.
“The number of posts such as these since the start of the season further highlights how discriminatory abuse online is out of control.
“Without immediate and the strongest possible action these cowardly acts will continue to grow.
“As always, we have contacted the respective clubs to offer support to those affected.”
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