I awoke today to read some of the most bizarre quotes uttered by an Arsenal player I have ever heard. Kolo Toure, speaking after the loss on Saturday, has admitted that he was ‘scared’ to play against Hull. In his own words:
“I was scared to play the game. Sometimes people, not the players, play the game before it’s started and that’s a problem because there are no small teams in the Premiership. Against Man United everybody thinks it’s going to be a tight game but when you play against Hull it’s harder because you are expected to win and score in the first minute. But it doesn’t happen like that. I was scared against Hull because there are no easy games.”
I’m sorry, but that is just ridiculous. Seriously, for Kolo to be scared of a club like Hull because the fans and the media expect this side to beat them comfortably is just weird. I agree with what he’s saying about their being no easy games in the Premiership, but for him to use the phrase “I was scared to play the game” is just outrageous.
The simple fact is that Toure – and the rest of the Arsenal team, for that matter – should not be worrying about what the fans or the media think about their upcoming games. It should not be a problem for them because they are professional athletes and every ounce of energy while representing Arsenal, be it on the training ground, preparing for a match or playing a game, should be spent getting into the right headspace to achieve their ultimate objectives: playing good football and getting three points.
If Toure was worried going into the game against Hull City then, quite simply, he should not be playing. And if he was scared of playing Hull then imagine how he is feeling about the game against Porto tomorrow? I know I certainly wouldn’t have him in my team if that’s the kind of headspace he’s in. I know this may sound harsh and usually I have a lot of respect for Kolo Toure, but for the good of the team he needs to be dropped for Johan Djourou tomorrow. One, because of his mental attitude and two, because he and William Gallas just aren’t working well together in the middle of defence.
I know I was critical of William Gallas yesterday but the simple fact is that he remains the captain of the club and he needs to play the majority of the games. Whether or not he deserves to stay captain or not is another matter entirely, but as long as he does have that armband he should be in the starting side. It might sound crazy and I know there will be plenty of people who want Gallas’ rather than Toure’s head on a pike but the way things currently stand at the club, this is just not possible. As such, dropping Toure is the realistically the only way that Wenger can address his defensive issues and if the manager is clever about it, he can point to Kolo’s comments as the main reason for the change.
Regardless of whether Gallas or Toure is dropped (or not) the manager has indicated that there will be changes to the side which lost to Hull, although he is reluctant to make the multitude of changes that the average Arsenal fan is bleating for. Wenger had this to say:
“If a player or two do not play tomorrow it is not a punishment, it is just because of a rotation in the side. You cannot go from one team to the other and change 11 players because we just lost one game.”
He can sugarcoat the changes all he wants, but whoever it is that misses out tomorrow will know it is because they have performed poorly on the weekend. My money is on Toure/Gallas, Denilson and Robin van Persie making way for Djourou, Alex Song and Nicklas Bendtner. I also think there’s a decent chance that Carlos Vela might get a start, the youngster’s experience in the Spanish Primera Liga could come in very handy against Portuguese opposition.
Update: Apologies, did not realise that Song was unavailable for this game. Cheers to ‘Drew’ for the heads up.
Whoever it is that plays tomorrow, their response needs to be positive. While the loss to Hull on the weekend was no disaster, a failure to beat Porto at home tomorrow will have the media grabbing at our necks. And given the effect they seem to have had on Kolo Toure, there’s no counting how much of an impact it could have on the rest of the squad.
Thankfully the match is live on SBS tomorrow morning at 4.30am (Australian time) so I will definitely be getting up to watch. It will be interesting to see how the boys respond. As always, I’ll hope for the best, but I’d be just that little bit more confident if I see Johan Djourou in the starting lineup.
Let me know what you think.
Have your say on Toure’s comments or Arsenal v Porto by leaving a comment.