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Toure de Force

Back in November, William Gallas made a rather incendiary speech revealing what many of us could already see manifested on the pitch, crystallized in Emmanuel Adebayor`s thrusting forehead towards Nicklas Bendtner last January. The internecine nature of the current squad is an open secret and it would appear that one player has been affected by it to the point that he requested a transfer at the beginning of the January transfer window. While Kolo Toure`s request was flatly rebuked, whispers have still been abound up and down press corridors regarding the Ivorian`s future at the club. It is clear that Toure has been some way off the rumbustuous form with which he ahs associated for some time. The question I want to get to grips with is how far he has a future at this club, particularly as he was once again demoted to the bench on Wednesday following the return of William Gallas- a player he clearly cannot stand the sight of.

Soviet dictator Lenin once remarked that a lie told often enough becomes the truth, and so has that quote been embellished in this situation, popular conjecture says that Toure`s loss of form coincided with his six week sojourn to Africa for the African Nations Cup twelve months ago. But the truth is that Toure`s form deserted him some time before that and well before the bout of malaria he contracted in the summer and the subsequent huge weight gain that appeared in symbiosis with his condition. The truth is Gallas` negative effect on Toure the footballer predates his spat with Toure the man following the gut wrenching 2-2 draw at Villa Park on Boxing Day. Though on this occasion, Gallas can hardly be blamed. The truth is Toure has been off kilter since the move to the Emirates and the signing of William Gallas. Toure blossomed in the Arsenal side under the tutelage of Sol Campbell, a strong commanding centre half who had the authority and know how to organise his backline. With Campbell`s subsequent breakdown at the back end of the 2005-06 season; the manager once again paired Toure with Senderos- undoubtedly the best centre half pairing the club have had since 2004. At the back end of the 2004-05 season the pair did not concede a goal in ten games when played together and played in the F.A. Cup Final shut out against United. With Campbell on sabbatical, Senderos and Toure then marshalled the Gunners through the knockout stages of the Champions League, unpenetrated by the likes of Zidane, Raul, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Trezeguet and Riquelme. Wenger looked to have found the centre half pairing that would concrete the club`s defence for years to come. Senderos, the strong, commanding centre half whose lack of pace was complimented by Toure`s pace and valour.

That summer, Gallas was signed and Toure and Senderos were never the same players. At the crux of the Ashley Cole saga, with a player of Gallas` quality up for grabs, the manager would have been mad not to go for him. Indeed, I was incredibly enthused about his signing. But in retrospect, it seems Gallas unwittingly took some of the harmony from the team well before any misquoted missives to the press occurred. Toure and Gallas never really worked as a pair, Senderos went to a World Cup and came home without conceding a goal in open play, but he also came home with his shoulder in plaster. Gallas had displaced him and Senderos` confidence seemed to suffer. Wenger had tried to turn Toure into a leader but it didn`t work, Toure has neither the composure nor the authority to lead a backline- as aptly demonstrated in the final minutes of the 2007 Carling Cup Final, he simply is not composed enough to be a leader. Wenger turned to Gallas for the captaincy, but like Toure, Gallas needs an imposing aerially dominant centre half alongside him to flourish. Toure`s form since the summer of 2006 has subsequently been patchy, and in February 2008 when he returned from Africa, he went from unconvincing to really quite bad. The notable weight gain of the summer months robbed him of his chief asset, the blistering pace with which he is blessed. So what does all of this mean for Toure`s future, the player himself would appear convinced that it lay away from N5 but I am not so sure.

Firstly, Gallas is 31 and has probably talked his way out of the exit door in the summer. Quality defender though he is, he is a blight on team spirit and good sides are always worth more than the sum of their parts. The other option, Silvestre, is also in his 30s and is frankly, not very good, not very fit and somebody who panics and flaps far too much for a player of his respectable experience. Time is on Toure`s side and his long term prospects have to be better than the garrulous Gallas or the shaky Silvestre. Toure needs to repair his confidence, that much is clear. One might think at a glance that in the long term, the partnership of Toure and Djourou could be complimentary enough to have legs on it. Though questions abound about whether Djourou, though physically imposing, has the requisite experience to be the shouting, balling presence Toure would need alongside him. Personally, I would like the manager to take a serious look at Senderos again in pre season and decide whether he still thinks Big Phil has the mental faculties to reignite that partnership again. But regardless, I still believe there is a future here for Toure if he really wants it and the manager`s flat rebuff of his transfer request would connote that he feels the same. Whilst notions of club values and loyalty are becoming increasingly antiquated in the modern mercenary game, I genuinely believe the current squad lacks a real core of "Arsenal men." This is elucidated in small gestures, not applauding travelling supporters in Kyiv and Everton, no longer lining up in the centre circle and applauding all four sides of the ground as Arsenal teams have done for every single game since the 1930s. These are small things which set this football club apart and make it special and too many of our players don`t realise or appreciate this. Toure is an exception I feel, someone who has taken this football club to his heart and that`s a valuable commodity too. Toure still has a lot to offer this football club and I believe we still have a lot to offer him. It`s down to him if he wants it.LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday January 30 2009

Time: 11:48AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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I often find myself wondering why Toure has gone from being one of the best CBs in the league to being so pants. Maybe Gallas is the reason or maybe he lost confidence something after seeing everyone of the unbeatables leave one by one. If not careful though Adebayor might be heading down that same path. Although his goal scoring record is not too bad this season, his overall play, workrate and attitude seems to have changed completely. Maybe some of it is to do with the lack of service from a cack midfield
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30/01/2009 12:18:00

A pretty good summary and a conclusion I agree with entirely. Gallas isn't here for long - probably not beyond the summer. Toure has to find a partner that works for him but as you have shown he has forged reasonable partnerships before with Campbell and Senderos. He could work with Djourou too. Silvestre is just Luzhny type back up. Kolo shouldn't feel he needs to move anywhere else just because of personality issues. There's no guarantee they won't crop up elsewhere too.
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30/01/2009 12:33:00

looks like the Arshavin saga is about to end he has been granted for a work permit
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30/01/2009 12:54:00

Excellent analysis LD- I'd almost forgotten how good Senderos and Toure were together. Maybe a year in Italy will have taught Senderos a few lessons about positioning, which could make up for a lack of pace. Anybody who has watched Big Phil for Switzerland would know he is a dominating physical presence and a leader. As well, for Switzerland he often hoofs long, accurate diagonal balls downfield (accurate being the key word here), something that would be useful with our current (and I presume temporary) lack of creativity in midfield. People tend to forget Senderos' overall play and focus on his lack of pace and a few memorable errors (losing Hyppia in the CL QF, being undressed by Drogba a couple of times, although I clearly remember one of them and Gallas just stood watching from 15 yards away as Senderos got into trouble, no effort at all to help out his partner or position himself in a more useful area). I always had him pegged as future captain. I'm not sure Toure and Djourou are such a good partnership- Senderos might only be two years older than Djourou but vastly more experienced. I'm not suggesting Senderos is the answer to our defensive shortcomings, but I think we should bring him back and have another look before selling him or loaning him out again (although I seem to recall at the time that Milan had the option to buy at the end of the loan spell so it's out of our hands if they want to keep him?) The latest tabloid talk has Mark Hughes sweetening the pot by offering cash and Micah Richards for Toure- if true, it's worth considering.
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30/01/2009 13:20:00

why would he be granted a work permit? at the rate of 1 goal every 4 games for zenit, i dont think he knows what work is, i do hope he proves me wrong
cornish gooner
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30/01/2009 13:21:00

A goal every 4 games isn't bad for an attacking midfielder, that's close to Pires territory. Richards? Another Titus Bramble if you ask me, he can't get in Citeh's side at the moment. Complete flash in the pan that boy, he'll be playing for Boro in three years, mark my words.
Little Dutch
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30/01/2009 13:25:00

Now Arsene Wenger has denied the work permit. I really cant wait for the transfer window to be closed. I should not get irritated with Wenger because i know he liked to keep things under wrap but his words really wind me up. 'we are not close to signing anyone, we will not break the bank, we have a strong enough squad, i believe in my players'. Maybe i am just too desperate to see some fresh experienced blood in the team.
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30/01/2009 14:15:00

I tried to say the same thing on the forum but LD you've put it in a clearer way, so cheers for that. If some sites (those that Tomf has read) say Kolo's injury means he won't be able to get back to his best, then why did Wenger refuse to sell him? As long as the boss has Kolo in his plans, I don't see why we should easily sell the one last mainstay Invincible who's also a loyal servant of the club who just 'gets' Arsenal - the only other Invincible being Clichy who was only a backup kid in that 2003-04 season, not a key player. Even if he's only used as a backup option, we still need him as a squad player. If some Gooners keep moaning that Wenger sell experienced players, how could they now want £12m (we don't even know if that's true) over Kolo?
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30/01/2009 16:11:00

Fantastic analysis, absolutely on-target!!
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30/01/2009 16:29:00

On Senderos, I kinda miss him too. When I saw him come off the bench towards the end in a Milan home game 2 weeks back, it dawned on me that he's only making his 2nd or 3rd league appearance of something, while the evergreen Maldini was well evergreen. It's a bit of a lose-lose situation. I really wish he'd come back to us with more experience or at least we'd know whether to keep him or sell him.
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30/01/2009 16:29:00

Senderos, Toure, Djourou & Silvestre if these are the four centre backs we'll have next season, i'll be quitely pleased. Senderos has reached a stage in his career where he is no longer a youngster and he has to play football regularly. So i hope Arsene does give him a chance next season and have Djourou behind them pushing them all the way. and we'll even have Song who can play there when needed. i really think we need a world class goalkeeper more than anything else..
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30/01/2009 17:02:00

What I will say, whilst I agree that Toure has a "longer" future at the club (because I feel that Gallas will be sold in the summer) what makes Toure so special that we have to include him in any partnership we ahve at the club? I would much rather see Senderos and Djourou partnered at the back than see Toure alongside either of them. Is he that good? His form is very very bad. Whilst I agree that being paired with Gallas would not have helped, it was Toure who has majorly declined, not Gallas, who is 31.
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30/01/2009 17:21:00

luckys, those four defenders would scare the ***** out of me. No World Class defenders in sight. The ones we ahve are bad enough, but at least Gallas has a credible ability at defending. If Djourou and Senderos were the partnership, I would feel comfortable, but signing a new player should be a priority, should we keep the likes of Fabregas and van Persie.
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30/01/2009 17:24:00

I can't type have!
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30/01/2009 17:32:00

Fab and Robin are arsenal men and wont go anywhere. we're only six points off second place at the moment. and the gap can be reduced on both pool and chelsea if we win tomm. i am not at all worried about not finishing in the top four that we will. but second place is up for grabs and we should target atleast a top 3 finish as that would garuntee an automatic entry into the group stages of the cl next season. and Tom, Toure is a proven performer, a good pre-season, he gets his fitness and sharpness back and we will once again see the best of him. Senderos and Djourou i believe are the future and yu have to give them a chance now. Silvestre is a decent back up as the 4th centre back..
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30/01/2009 17:49:00

Thats all nice in fantasy land, but we live in the real world.
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30/01/2009 17:55:00

And what about Gallas? Why is he left out?
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30/01/2009 17:57:00

A fantasy world would be an Arsenal transfer being concluded quicky without frustrations.
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30/01/2009 17:58:00
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30/01/2009 18:03:00

cuz i consider Gallas to be a goner come May. and if yu think that is fantasy, well than wait till these players prove yu wrong..
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30/01/2009 18:44:00

man i hope that is true and that this deal goes through soon. it will be such a huge lift for the team, for us and for the club in general. lets get him before the west ham game..
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30/01/2009 18:51:00

Can't see Gallas sticking around. But what we need is a real tough guy, a big no-nonsense defender in the Vidic mode, to complement all the more stylish players we have. As much as I like Djourou, he seems too nice a guy to bring the aggression that we need at CB. Senderos could possibly be that guy, but I worry about his errors.
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31/01/2009 01:40:00

Will be a blow to lose Toure, would a swap deal with Micah Richards be on the cards...?
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31/01/2009 19:37:00

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31/01/2009 20:03:00

A good analysis LD. I also felt that Wenger tampered with the Senderos - Toure partnership too early, although he couldnt be blamed for attempting to pair 2 world class defenders in Toure & Gallas. I've been impressed with Djourou and if Toure can work with him, they could be a good CB pairing. However, I doubt whether any of the existing personnel at the club can put together a mean title winning defence (in the ManU/Chelsea mould), so perhaps the solution lies outside of the club.
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31/01/2009 21:50:00

Still up for swapping Micah Richards for Kolo Toure if anyone is interested!
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01/02/2009 02:10:00

Tell you what, how about we swap Micah Richards for Kolo, and you give us £5million for Danny Sturridge? He's in dispute over his wages and The Arse look like they could do with a goalscorer at the moment. What do you say? Both of these players are young and fit into Arsene's policy of developing talent rather than shelling out on more experienced players. They're both proving difficult at City, maybe a change would do everyone some good.
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01/02/2009 02:14:00

I would take that because Sturridge is worth three Toure's. To be paid for him would be excellent.
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01/02/2009 12:08:00


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