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Ta Ta Toure

Before starting with the jist of this article, it is worthwhile repeating Paul`s sentiments in the article above and articulating our sadness at the passing of Sir Bobby Robson this morning. The word 'legend` is strewn around all too casually these days (as is the official anointment of 'Sir`), but Robson was a man well worthy of both titles. A true gentleman who will be truly missed. Our thoughts are extended unreservedly to his family and friends.

Whilst the world of football lost one of its greatest gentlemen today, Arsenal Football Club too was spared one of its most humble servants, albeit in far, far less sombre circumstances. Kolo Toure became the latest 'Invincible` to depart the good ship Arsenal. (But not the last, Gael Clichy won a Premiership medal in 2003-04). It seems to be an increasingly rare occurrence nowadays that a player leaves your club with your best wishes- certainly the recent departures of Flamini, Hleb, Adebayor and Cole have left varying degrees of acrimony with Arsenal supporters and the club hierarchy as a whole. Yet whilst just a fortnight ago, the casuistry of Adebayor`s move to Citeh was being remarked upon ad nauseam, Toure is correctly remembered with genuine affection. Kolo always represented the club with a dignity and distinction that made him a firm fans` favourite, the almost child like enthusiasm with which he represented the club drawing avuncular affection from the stands. (Story has it, that when on trial at Arsenal in 2002, he was so eager to impress, that he neatly took Arsene Wenger out with a crunching tackle). In an age where players are willing and able to move more freely, the conservative traditionalist in all of us feels that a bond is being broken. So it is with warmth we cling to characters such as Kolo who, put in Lehmann`s terms (see what I did there?), got this football club. He appreciated how special it was to represent it, how important it was to give his all and respect the values of the club with his humility. Kolo was a player who considered it an honour to play for Arsenal. The likes of Adebayor are players that think it is an honour for Arsenal to represent them. Who could forget Toure`s endearingly immature goal celebrations, such as when he registered his first Arsenal goal at Stamford Bridge and, not knowing what to do, sprinted headlong towards his manager for a high five. His place in Arsenal legend is secure and belongs to the ages. Not because he scored the last ever European goal scored at Highbury you understand, but because he once smacked Alan Shearer in the back of the head. Well deserved it was too.

Kolo was one of the last progenies to an Arsenal side that won trophies for fun and, as such, the sentimentality in his departure can be understood. Much with same as the mischievous speculation around the return of Patrick Vieira (more on that in a minute), we are intransigent when asked to sever our links to better times. Kolo made 326 appearances for Arsenal since joining in February 2002, scoring 14 goals. Kolo won 2 F.A. Cups and 1 Premiership title, representing the club in a gentlemanly throughout- in success and in failure. We thank him warmly for his service. It is notable that nobody has questioned Kolo`s motives for joining Citeh, as a character he has earned that kind of trust (even if he did perhaps go slightly Freudian on our asses when he accidentally referred to his new employees as "Money City" in his unveiling press conference). However, removing the veil of sentiment, I think this was probably the right time for the move- for Kolo and for Arsenal. Whilst many point to the extirpation of the 'Invincibles` squad, the truth is that Toure has under whelmed for a while now. Many point to the 2008 African Nations Cup as the beginning of his demise, but in truth I think it may have been earlier than that. Toure excelled when put alongside physically imposing and verbally commanding centre halves. Undoubtedly the peak of Toure`s time at Arsenal occurred during his partnership with the gargantuan Sol Campbell at the back. It was a symbiotic partnership that bought with it great reward for the club and its trophy cabinet. However, when Campbell`s mind and body began to desert him, Toure was asked to lead the backline alongside the young Senderos. However, to my eyes, Senderos too wore the trousers in that partnership, providing a kind of mini Campbell, strong, physically imposing and a commander at the back. Senderos lacks mobility though- an area Toure was able to assist in spades.

I think therein lies the lack of form over the last two years, Toure has always been an incredible athlete, but he has yet to show that he has developed the football brain of an imposing, 28 year old centre back. At his age, his chief attribute- his athleticism- will only recede. The bout of malaria he suffered will probably have sped that process along; it certainly seemed to eventuate in noticeable weight problems for Toure last year. Of course there is also the Gallas issue; the pair clearly do not get along. One might argue that the disputatious Gallas could start a fight with his own shadow and there may be veracity in that argument- but he`s still clearly a world class defender. Many will point to the fact that Toure came back into the side in the spring having been dropped for Djourou and Silvestre beforehand, and managed to forge a decent partnership with Gallas again. However, when Gallas` knee gave way in Eastern Spain, our season collapsed with his medial ligament. Toure, left to marshal the back line without Lieutenant Willy, came up short as Arsenal began to leak goals with impunity. Herein lay the point, Toure has not stepped up to become the leader we needed and wanted. One way or another, since the arrival of Gallas, Toure has been slowly edged out of the picture- and not necessarily just because he is persona non grata in William`s ever shrinking address book. With one year left on his contract and at the age of 28, £16m represents very good business indeed. (Yet still there are those that harp on about Dein`s role in getting good transfer fees for players. Dein was ushered out of the exit door some two years ago and our ability to do good business on player trading has been untarnished. But please feel free to keep being suckered in by his self promoting, press engineered charm offensive).

It is perhaps then understandable that the mischievous rumours surrounding the possible return of Patrick Vieira have been greeted with misty eyed acclaim. The first thing to say is that this snowballing rumour began with some innocuous and typically ill thought out words from rent-a-quote Ian Wright- Arsenal legend doubtless, but his musings as a media pundit are fatuous at best. Patrick Vieira was one of the greatest Arsenal players I have ever seen, if not the greatest. However, I would ask serious questions if these rumours had any credence (which I sincerely doubt they do). The fact is, even in his last season at Arsenal, Vieira`s physicality clock appeared to be ticking towards midnight in Premiership in Greenwich Meridian Time. Four years later and Vieira now finds himself physically obsolete in the painfully slow Serie A, led to the knacker yard by Inter Milan. I hear many counter pose that Vieira could play the midfield destroyer role, relying on younger legs around him. If that`s such a fantastic idea, then why isn`t Mourinho trying it at Inter? At the age of 32, even the eminently intelligent Gilberto found the position tough going, so I cannot see how a declining Vieira would magically make amends. His injury record since departing these shores has been appalling- as is usually the fate of box to box midfielders- their careers decline at an earlier age. (See Keane, Rosyton circa 2003-05 for a fitting example). If you`re giving me the choice between a rapidly improving Denilson (who A Cultured Left Foot does a brilliant piece on today- illuminating that Arsenal conceded a goal every 157 minutes with Denilson in the side and a goal every 19 minutes in the games in which Alex Song was preferred to him) and an unfit Vieira in the autumn of his years, I would not deliberate for very long. People are often fond of the old "ahh, but what about his influence on the training ground?" mantra, to which I can only answer, what the hell are the coaching staff there for? Why the need for such atavism when we already have the relics from Arsenal`s past such as Bould and Rice on the training pitch?

Many have questioned the sagacity of selling Toure to Eastlands, with the media already sharpening their kebab knives and bracing themselves for Arsenal to be snatched from their lofty perch by Money City. That inquiry can only be answered in the fullness of time, but if indeed we do utilise the contribution they have made to our transfer kitty (and that`s the key question I guess), then one might argue how sapient City have been in boosting our artillery. £40m in the hands of Arsene Wenger is probably the equivalent to £100m to 99% of England`s other coaches. A great deal of the hype surrounding City- for the time being at least- I think is mistaken. Due to the links with Eto`o and Kaka, the public have got themselves all up in a lather about the £94m City have spent this summer. But when one analyses who they have successfully bought, the picture becomes a little clearer. Barry was wanted by Liverpool but considered not worth the money. Roque Santa Cruz`s goal scoring record in his seasons as a professional footballer read as follows: 7, 5, 8, 5, 6, 0, 4, 3, 23, 6. Spot the anomaly. Adebayor and Tevez were such irritating characters that their managers could no longer be bothered with them, whilst Toure is showing evidence of decline. City have bought solid, good players. Very good players. But ultimately players that the rest of the top four could not be bothered with. They finished 10th last season, 40 points behind United. Are their current signings really going to make up enough of the short fall with the players they have bought? I don`t think so, not for this season anyway. City will challenge in the future- it is inevitable. But, and I am here to be shot at, I don`t see it just yet.

With Adebayor and Toure having been shifted and Eboue apparently to follow, I think it`s clear the Professor has something in mind. Maybe there was a divisive African clique in the dressing room? Perhaps Monsieur Wenger took a gander at the teams we are due to play during the African Nations in January and decided to immolate some sacrificial lambs. Either way, I think there is a trend that reveals a master plan of sorts. Wednesday night`s friendly with Hannover saw Arsene tinker with a Barcelona-lite 4-3-3 formation, with van Persie providing the meat in an Arshavin Bendtner sandwich. The signing of Vermaelen is a step towards having a more physical presence at the back; I think our summer so far shows that Wenger is no longer content with treading water in a comfortable top four berth, conversely to what his critics are saying just now. It looks to me as though he is reshaping the team completely. Last season`s midfield saw more permutations than a Joan Collins wedding and I do not think Wenger wants to take the risk of experimenting mid season again. (Last season probably taught him that F.A. Cup and Champions League Semi Finals are not ideal laboratories in which to test new formations). My own personal opinion is that Arsenal could do with two or three more strong squad players- ideally an all rounder at the back and a good central midfield player. I have often said that I think it is not United`s sparkling individuals that sets them apart- such as the Rooneys, Ferdinands and Berbatovs- but the Fletchers and O`Sheas who can be trusted to slot into the team and perform a function in big games. Either way, I think we`re witnessing the dawn of a different Arsenal here. Whether it will be good, bad or indifferent I`ve no idea. But I`m looking forward to finding out.LD.

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

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday July 31 2009

Time: 3:05PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Fantastic piece of writing LD, thank you. I am slightly nervous about this season, more so than other pre-seasons. I do genuinely believe that we will see a more ' united ' Arsenal. AW has got rid of a goal-shy mercenary, and a CB who was very partial to the odd ' what the hell is he thinking ' tackle, and the ' oh no not again ' sending off. Let's get FULLY behind the boys.....starting tomorrow.
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31/07/2009 15:33:00

Excellent read LD. Enjoyed that from start to finish. 8-)
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31/07/2009 15:34:00

Good thoughtful and thought prompting stuff. Lehmann's terms eh! - very clever!
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31/07/2009 15:41:00

2 thoughts -- I don't understand why some want PV to come back. Two years ago in a CL match between 'pool and Inter, I remember the announcer saying, 'I can't believe this is the same Vieira' as Inter's midfield was being completely torn to shreds... he is so far past it, he should not even be considered. 2nd -- If we are to play a 4-3-3 a la Barca, then we must mimic their personnel in midfield to the best of our ability. Denilson in the Yaya role is a bit of a stretch, but who knows, maybe Den will keep on improving at the rate he did over last season, in which case we'll be fine. Cesc in the Xavi role (that's the obvious spot for him). We then have to have a dynamic midfielder with an eye for goal like Iniesta. Song is simply not good enough (yet) for this role. We'd have to play Rosicky or Nasri in that position for us to have any success with that formation.
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31/07/2009 16:04:00

I tend to agree TPowell, I think Nasri could slot in there, but that's why I think another midfielder is reuqired. Song can cover for Denilson, but I wouldn't let Diaby anywhere near our team if I could help it. Denilson looks to me to be becoming more of an Alonso type, decent playmaker (seven assists) and good destroyer. Read the piece at A Cultured Left Foot, explains that comparison in more detail.
Little Dutch
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31/07/2009 16:10:00

As I've said before, I'm really optimistic about this season! I (like you LD) think we're just 2 players away. It's only 2 years ago that we were well up there challenging, until we lost Tommy and Eddy. Now, they might be back, and in my opinion the other top boys (not taking City into account yet) have been weakened. I think we'll see more of Vela and Bendtner and Ramsey and Wilshere might be on hand for a couple of cameo roles. I still want a quality CM. Rumours today we're after De Rossi but he'll cost us £30m, which I can't see us spending on anyone. It's a shame because he's a quality player in the mould we're looking for.
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31/07/2009 16:18:00

haha, yeah LD, I forgot to mention that Diaby should only see the field against relegation-quality opponents.
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31/07/2009 16:33:00

Diaby couldn't kick snow off a rope. Abou,if you are reading this, GET OUT OF MY LIFE.
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31/07/2009 16:44:00

Top piece LD. Right about every thing in my mind. Interesting poinrt about Denilson's goals conceded ratio - its stats like these that make me wonder whether FAbregas and Denilson plus another CM really is the best midfield combination, despite my initial reaction that we need an imposing defensive minded monster.
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31/07/2009 16:51:00

Denilson, Fabregas and Song will be an awesome trio next season, but it is clear that we would then need another defensive midfielder as backup - Matuidi would fit the bill I guess. I would also agree that we need a versitile defender (Jerome Boateng?) and maybe even a backup striker (Chamakh?), if we got those three squad players, we would have a fantastis squad with a top class first team. De Rossi? Watch the Champions League quarter final at home.
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31/07/2009 17:16:00

I think De Rossi is unrealistic anyway, but you can't judge a player on one game. I could name a few games where Cesc, Vieira, Henry and even Bergkamp have had off days. However Tom I do agree with the rest of your points. All three of these players would be good squad players and realistic targets. I especially like what I've seen of Jerome Boateng but I know he's highly regarded in Germany..... so he won't be easily prized.
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31/07/2009 18:46:00

that trio isn't good enough to win ***** next year tom... I understand your love for Denilson, but Song? not yet
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31/07/2009 18:47:00

It is more than good enough. The rest of the team needs to shape up.
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31/07/2009 19:12:00

This Vieira story seems to gaining pace with Wengers comments today. Oh well!
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31/07/2009 21:11:00

If Vieira does come back, do you think Wenger would be tempted to use him in central defence?
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31/07/2009 21:27:00

I feel bad saying it, because they are both young and seem to be highly-rated by Arsene, but the only players in our team now who really worry me when I see them on the team-sheet are Diaby and Walcott. They both have unique qualities (Diaby's strength and good feet - Walcotts pace and direct style of play) but both also lack vital qualities in an Arsenal side (Diaby the inteligence and work-ethic, and Walcott's tendancy to give the ball away and his inability to utilise his qualities throughout the game.
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31/07/2009 21:29:00

on the lack of leadership at the back and toure not stepping up, i agree, and think the signing of the ex-captain of Ajax to our defense is a strong sign that wenger is thinking the same thing, and he plays for belgium, so dont have to worry about him being out too long in international tournaments - Vermaelen was a great buy!
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31/07/2009 22:25:00

"If Vieira does come back, do you think Wenger would be tempted to use him in central defence?" - erm... no. AR - I wouldn't expect to see much of Diaby to be honest, and Walcott will not get much game time if everyone is fit.
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31/07/2009 22:26:00

Thats right LD you keep the faith son. If The Emirates stadium was hit by a asteroid you would somehow find a positive!!! And Joan Collins wedding? Brilliant.
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31/07/2009 23:44:00

Tom14, that should be the case, but Arsene somehow let Diaby get games last season, and imagine the outcry from the masses of idiots who list Walcott as being in our top 3 or 4 players!
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01/08/2009 00:34:00

I think Walcott's main problem is his crossing's terrible, which goes in hand with Sagna behind him who is just as bad if not worse! Althought i understand what you're saying about Walcott, the kid really does cause problems for our opponents when he is on form if it is just for his pace alone, he manages to get into Damaging posistions. There are a few players i would like to see gone before Theo. Someone before mentioned they would like see more of Vela next season ...i totally agree with that. His touch and control on the ball look excellent already, he looks and moves like Eduardo.
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01/08/2009 03:24:00

HY, Cingratulations, you are the first person on earth that has ever accused me of being positive about anything. Ever. Read the last lineof the article again numbnuts.
Little Dutch
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01/08/2009 04:16:00

He tends to be true to his word in one respect does Wenger. If he feels there is a player that can add genuine quality to the squad AND is priced reasonably (or we can drive a good deal), then he certainly adds them. He signed Diarra and we already had a midfield of Diaby, Gilberto, Flamini, Denilson and Song. So I'm sure there are options for us but it will probably come down to price. I think LD is right in that we could do with good squad players like United have, e.g. Park, O'Shea and Fletcher. Remember the jobs that Remi Garde and Grimandi used to do for us?
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01/08/2009 11:12:00

Are you guys nervous about the bid for Senderos?
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01/08/2009 17:54:00

Hello good friend. I am literally ****ting my pants. How are the Africans doing?
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01/08/2009 19:13:00

Haha Tom. What are we going to do without a player who hasn't played for us since April 08?
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01/08/2009 22:27:00

Nervous - definately, definately not - but, to be honest, I'd be regretful to see him leave and turn out to be another 'what-might-have-been' player.
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01/08/2009 23:23:00

I wouldn't mind if Senderos stayed. I want to see him have a run in the team, and see what improvements he's made,if any, after his spell in Italy. I would only agrtee to his sale if it means AW has a quality CB lined up to bring in.
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02/08/2009 06:48:00

Did Senderos get much of a run in Italy?
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04/08/2009 01:53:00

I think Senderos played less than 20 times in Italy, and he now off to Everton where David Moyes is hoping to improve him?! By the way Great Article Tim.
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04/08/2009 09:13:00

Glad to say i can't see ya finishing top 4 next year ta ta
yid kid
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04/08/2009 15:51:00

i saw your poll. 65% of you are glad adebayor is gone your just scared he'll come back to haunt you and bitter he left. Decent player i have to admit. And well done to the 7% who said they're gutted cos you should cos your not getting 4th or anything above next year.
yid kid
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04/08/2009 15:54:00

suck turd
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04/08/2009 16:30:00

I think it's pretty safe to say I don't see your lot finishing top four either YK.
Little Dutch
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04/08/2009 16:57:00

Our team are one the up with a great future but you are selling and not making good additions. You go on about you youngsters their *****. Fair enough the odd one is good but you can't keep planning ahead because you need to concentrate on next season when we finish above you. And eventually when your younsters starty to become good enough to stand a minimal chance of you being in europe they'll be old. Look at our youngsters like Lennon look where he's got to a great player wanted by the best not like theo Ballcott who cant get into your team. Come on you Spurs. A5ENA1. HA
yid kid
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04/08/2009 17:49:00

HA erm... yeah.
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04/08/2009 17:58:00

"next season when we finish above you"... That just made me feel like such a fool. I can't believe I thought sp*rs had got over that phase. And Aaron Lennon isn't exactly a youngster. At 22 he can be considered a young player, whilst, as a teenager, Walcott can be labelled a youngster. He's got time to improve. Fabregas is younger than Lennon, we don't call him a youngster.
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04/08/2009 20:39:00

What with the persistent miserable weather and the lack of a holiday on my part I was starting to wonder if it was summer at all. Then a Spurs fan said, "next season when we finish above you" and I knew it really was. Maybe even the sun will be reassured enough to come out of hiding now?
Little Dutch
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04/08/2009 20:45:00

Toure is with a club which will idolise him. City were desperate for some real defensive quality, and though I can understand a lot of Gooners not being too bothered, I think we've got the quality we need in Toure. Time will tell.
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14/08/2009 00:44:00


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