Kolo Toure is now a Manchester City player after completing a transfer believed to be worth around £16 million. The Ivorian’s move has been confirmed on the official Arsenal website as well as the City one with Toure signing a four-year deal with his new club.
First things first I want to say that I wish Kolo all the best at his new club. He has served the Arsenal Football Club as good as anyone else under Arsene Wenger and has never given anything less than 100% in his eight years at the club. He’s experienced some outstanding moments since his move from the right wing to the centre of defence, forming an outstanding partnership with Sol Campbell during our ‘Invincibles’ year as well as scoring the goal that got us into our first and only Champions League final.
Toure has always been a fan favourite at Arsenal because he works his socks off, something that supporters value above all else. I wish him every success at City and I hope he plays out the remainder of his career with the same enthusiasm that he has always done. Unlike Emmanuel Adebayor, who acted foolishly throughout his final year at our club, I don’t think Toure deserves to be criticised by the Arsenal fans for joining City.
At the age of 28 he had reached a difficult point in his Arsenal career – stuck behind William Gallas, new signing Thomas Vermaelen and up-and-coming Johan Djourou in the pecking order – and with consistent first-team football a certainty in Manchester it is understandable to see him move on. From a purely personal level it would have been foolish for Toure to stay, just as it would have been foolish for Arsenal to ignore a £16 million offer for a third or fourth choice central defender who has performed poorly for the past season-and-a-half.
There will undoubtedly be a lot of Arsenal supporters calling for Toure to be replaced, but I won’t necessarily be among them. In William Gallas I believe we have one of the truly great central defenders in the Premier League – perhaps bettered only by Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Daniel Agger – and in Johan Djourou a player who is more than ready to become a big player for the club, as indicated by his early-season form in the last campaign. Throw in Thomas Vermaelen – who is obviously rated highly by the manager and will compete strongly for a starting position – and Philippe Senderos – who has had a year away from the spotlight and Didier Drogba to improve his game at Milan – and I believe we’re looking a lot stronger in this department than many people believe.
I still believe the way to significantly improve our defence is to sign a top-class defensive midfielder rather than to sign another centre back. As an attacking force we have good variety and depth, out wide at the back and in midfield we look terrific and the quality I see in Djourou leads me to believe we’re deceptively strong in defence. It’s just the middle that needs improvement.
Despite an excellent final third of last season Wenger’s “seven central defenders” comment from a couple of days ago suggests that Alex Song’s future may lie in defence. Meanwhile I still hold the opinion that – statistics or no statistics – Denilson does not have the stamina or physical presence required to give Cesc Fabregas the freedom he needs to wreak havoc from the middle of the park. It’s clear via the interest we showed in Felipe Melo that the manager is looking to strengthen and I can’t see why he would give up after one failed attempt. Wenger’s scouting ability is legendary and I think it would be foolish to believe that he doesn’t have other options (could it be this man?) to consider.
I should state here that even if a defensive-minded midfielder is not brought to the club I think we’re in a very good position going into next season. We have good depth in almost every area of the park, three top class attacking players that we didn’t have at the start of last season in Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky and Eduardo, and every single one of our younger players is a year older and a year more experienced. Contrast that with Manchester United (who have lost Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez), Liverpool (who have signed no-one) and Chelsea (who will have to adjust to their new coach and have only brought in a left-back) and I think of all the top teams (City excluded) we’re the ones who will improve the most on last season’s result.
I find it almost laughable that the Australian bookies have pushed Arsenal out to $9 to win the league after Toure’s exit while United, Chelsea and Liverpool are at $2.65, $3.25 and $3.50. Even City – a team with an average coach and a huge amount of imbalance in their squad – are almost on top of us at $13. While I’m not necessarily stating that I think Arsenal will win the league I think it’s a huge underestimation of our chances of doing so and if you’re a betting man I’d be putting the money down right now before we bring in any signings and the odds drop significantly.
To finish off today I just want to touch on the other very important Arsenal news item – the 1-0 pre-season win over Hannover 96. Cesc Fabregas got the only goal of the game in the 8th minute after a lovely Robin van Persie pass, but the big story of the day was Emmanuel Eboue’s apparent “goodbye” wave at the end of the match. I might be reading too much into it but with Eboue taking his shirt and boots off and giving them to the crowd and waving to the Arsenal fans it suggests he’s on his way out of the club as well, most likely to Fiorentina. Check out the video here (4:12 in) and let me know you think.
And on that note I’ll leave it there. Have a wonderful Thursday.
Have your say on the Kolo Toure’s exit, Eboue’s wave or the current state of the Arsenal squad by leaving a comment.