We bid farewell to the last of the Invincibles with the departure of Kolo Toure to Manchester City.
Kolo’s departure brings to end a chapter in our history that had us not only playing some breathtaking football but also winning trophies and creating Premiership history. We look back on those days when the squad was full of established stars that were coming to their peak and we hope that it will not be long before those days are once again with us.
Toure joined for around £100K and spent three or four months in the reserves. His first full season saw Kolo play everywhere, from right-back, left-back, central midfield, on the wings and even in one game as the second striker. Eventually he settled in at the back where he partnered Keown or Campbell.
Toure was a solid defender; he was fast and a good tackler. His style was sometimes “amateurish” but he was not a player strikers often got the better of. Some pundits claim that his best years were when he had a solid partner alongside him like Campbell or Keown; personally he always looked accomplished to me and was rarely rattled.
Toure always fancied himself as a striker and would always saunter up field looking to score, but not a five yard tap-in, for Kolo it had to be a 30 yard screamer. The fans would be on the edge of their seats as he lined up his shot and invariably he would trouble the poor ball-boy by the corner flag! But that was Toure for you and we all love him for that. His other favourite was lining up to take a free kick. He could not bend the ball around or over the wall, for him it was sheer power. If the free kick was within 30 yards, you knew it was Kolo-time. In all his attempts he managed one goal from free-kicks, and no matter how wild the kick was the fans thought it was hilarious!
Over the last couple of seasons Toure has not been Wenger’s first choice and he spent the early part of last season on the bench. The smile soon disappeared and then we had the public falling-out with Gallas. At that point it was inevitable that one had to leave. Toure requested a transfer in January but Wenger persuaded him to stay, or at least until the end of the season. This is the same agreement he struck privately with Cole and Henry.
So Toure leaves us and leaves behind many memories. We cannot wish him luck at Manchester City as they will be challenging us next season, but we do say thank you for everything he has done for Arsenal and only time will tell if Wenger was right in selling him.
Arsene will be focusing on rebuilding his central defence this summer. This rebuilding has started with the acquisition of Thomas Vermaelen, but it will not and cannot end here.
Of the central defenders on our books from last season, four of them have contract that expire next summer. William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Mikael Silvestre and Philippe Senderos all have contracts with one year left and none have been offered a new contract.
It is no secret that Wenger does not see Senderos staying at the Emirates beyond the current transfer window and he will be moved on, sooner rather than later. There has been some interest shown in the player from Italy and Germany, whilst Aston Villa are ready to make a move for the Swiss international.
Mikael Silvestre has been a disaster from his first game at Arsenal, no Arsenal fans will shed a tear for the former Manchester United player, and the way he played last season, I am sure he was still on Fergie’s payroll. The sooner he goes to France the better.
This leaves us with William Gallas and Kolo Toure. Both players have been good servants for Arsenal, but at the same time we know they do not like each other and things came to a head with Toure asking for a move in January. Something persuaded Kolo to stay. It was one of two things, either Wenger promised Kolo that Gallas will be sold in the summer or he told Kolo that he can leave for Manchester City this summer.
Neither situation is satisfactory for Arsenal. If Gallas leaves, why has Toure not been offered a new contract yet? Toure can wait till next season and leave on a free transfer. If Toure was told he can leave this summer, this means Gallas stays, which is a good thing, but it appears that he has no intention of staying beyond the forthcoming season.
Whatever happens, the centre of our defence will be Wenger’s top priority this summer, Vermaelen is not, and cannot be the only centre-back to arrive at the club this summer otherwise we will have a massive rebuilding programme next summer.
Reports in the UK media are saying that mega bucks Manchester City are preparing a £15 million bid for Toure.
Toure was subject of a bid from Manchester City in January; in fact the Ivory Coast defender handed in a written transfer request, but was persuaded by Wenger to withdraw it. Without doubt the player’s agent has agreed terms with Manchester City so all that remains is for Arsenal to accept the offer and Toure will leave.
Should Arsenal accept this bid?
Arsene has gone on record to say that he does not wish to sell any of his starts this summer. Furthermore, selling to Manchester City will strengthen one of the teams that will challenge us for a top four finish next season. Despite purchasing Thomas Vermaelen, we cannot afford to sell one of our centre backs. Apart from Toure and Vermaelen, we have Gallas, Silvestre, Djourou and Senderos. Senderos is expected to be sold, whilst Silvestre has not been a great success. Gallas is in his last year of his contract, so selling Toure will leave us a bit short at the back.
Wenger could however, be contemplating selling Toure, and so far he has been vague about keeping specific players and Arsenal have not made any attempt at offering the centre back a new contract, his existing deal expires next summer. Wenger could have reached an understanding with Toure similar to the ones that he did with Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry and Alex Hleb, whereby he gave them an undertaking that they could leave the next season.
Arsene may have lined up Brede Hangeland as a replacement for Toure. It was reported earlier this summer that Arsenal had made a £15 million bid for the Norway international, if this is the case, losing Toure for £15 million would not be too much of a disaster.
Arsenal need to ensure that Hangeland is in the bag before accepting the offer for Toure. If the two deals come–off, we could see a new partnership at the heart of the Arsenal defence with Vermaelen partnering Hangeland.
Kolo Toure’s relationship with Gallas has been well documented, they do not get on! Toure has told everyone and he was close to leaving in January. A transfer request was handed in but Arsene spoke to Kolo and the request was withdrawn.
Only last week Toure extolled the virtues of keeping the squad together
“I think keeping the team together is the most important thing,” he said. “When you stay with your team-mate for three or four years you start to learn how he plays.
“That helps you for the games and I think we have been together for a while now. It’s important for our improvement next season.
“Sometimes when you bring somebody else, these players have to settle and that can take a year sometimes.
“The Premier League is already difficult so if you play six months badly it’s difficult to come back.”
Now some spurious reports have Toure wanting to leave and fulfil he dream of playing for Manchester City!
Furthermore, Toure who would command a fee of around £14 million is being considered as a make-weight in a move by Arsenal for Micah Richards. Richards, the reports say is valued at £6 million. Now maths may not be a strong point for some journalists, but if such a move was to go through it would Richards who is the make-weight.
Is there some credence in this report? Well yes. Toure’s contract expires next summer; he is one player that the boss has not mentioned about renewing his contract. Wenger is a great fan of Richards, who can fill-in at either right-back or centre-back. This boy was being talked about as a £20 million target only two years ago, now to be able to get his hands on him for £6 million might be too much of a temptation.
Wenger knows he has to choose between Gallas and Toure and the Frenchman has been the more competent of the two over the last few seasons, he reads the game better and rarely gets flustered.
If Wenger thinks its time for Toure to leave and he can get £14 million, whilst spending £6 million on Richards and £10 million of Vermaelen, then that is good business and refreshes the squad in a vital area.