Kolo Toure was officially Manchester City’s latest signing yesterday. To be honest, I didn’t see this coming even as late as last week although the rumours to his departure started as early as January this year when Arsenal admitted he handed in a transfer request.
For a player who has given so much to the club, the way the relationship ended really wasn’t the most ideal. He lost his place in the first team and his relations with his defensive partner William Gallas had broken down and although after the mid-season transfer window closed with Toure staying and re-affirming his future with the club, they seemed to get back together on professional terms at least. During pre-season, Toure and Gallas partnered each other more than once, making me think they might both be staying. He even led the team out as captain in the friendly the day before he left.
Unlike Ademoneyor, no true Gooner can begrudge Toure leaving Arsenal for whatever reasons, monetary or ‘footballing’, the latter being more Politically-Correct then realistic. No fan would be pleased to hear their new signing joined for the sake of money, it’s like a taboo revealing that in your first interview at a new club. City fans can kid themselves but they know deep down inside, that all these players did not join their club simply because of the club’s prestige, but purely because of money. I’m not going to open a can of worms by saying what I feel about their way of obtaining success, because every club has their own way and their own rights. It’s their club and I honestly don’t give a rat’s ass how they run their club. It is Arsenal I care about.
Anyway, I digress. I want to say, Kolo Toure has been an impeccable professional for us. I love him dearly as a Gunner and I genuinely wish him all the very best except whenever he returns to Emirates stadium. His departure has made me unable to post yesterday (ok, my night class did play a big part in that too) and I am still coming to terms with it. I remember how his horrible own goal against Leeds brought our title challenge to a halt some years back (has to be some time back, do you even remember Leeds?), but he was so incredibly upset after he lashed at the ball madly into the back of our own goal that you can see he was tearing himself apart. I was really frustrated when the goal was scored but after I saw his reaction, my heart went out to him. He went on to become part of that famous back four in that record-breaking run in the Champions League. With Sol Campbell out-of-sorts most of that season, a 25-year-old Toure was the main man in defence and he did not let the team down.
Toure has left us many fond memories, and it should have been more. My fear is that having seen him in pre-season, he certainly looks fitter and leaner than last season. In any case, thank you for all the memories, Kolo.
Well, we have lost two African players and very experienced ones too taking into consideration how young the rest of the team is. A thrd African departure is being mooted in the form of Eboue and I have said before in previous posts that after Toure’s departure, I am no longer keen to see Eboue leave. If he does leave, we are no only short on numbers, we are dangerously bereft of quality rightbacks. In my earlier article on our rightbacks for the season ahead, both Toure and Eboue are high up on the list in being Sagna’s backup but if both are gone we will be left with purely youngsters as backup. Like it or not, we’ll have to sign players if that happens.
The media is of course up to their usual tricks of planting the panic buttons into Gooners everywhere and I’m glad to see only ignorant, jump-on-the-bandwagon, relatively-new gooners are being taken in with the fans of our rival clubs. News of Toure and Ademoneyor leaving Arsenal is sensational enough for them because Arsenal will now appear much weaker than we already are and if they do not have anything else to excite them by, then surely taking the micky out of a rival club would make their pre-season. Let us put things into perspective here.
Looking purely across the top teams one by one:
Manchester United – Lost two players who played an integral part in their title wins last two seasons and the Champions League win two seasons ago. Antonio Valencia, a player who shone in a team without any technical ability, was brought in to replace the world’s best player. He is a good player, but is he good enough to replace Ronaldo? You can argue he is young but let me tell you a cold, hard fact – he is the SAME age as Ronaldo. France U-21 international Gabriel Obertan was another signing. Young and hugely talented, he only served half a season of Bordeaux’s title-winning season as a reserve, before gong on loan to Lorient for the rest of the season. Finally, they signed Michael Owen which was ridiculed by most of the football world but to me their best signing of this summer. Getting a proven goalscorer for free is almost like a riskless venture. There is no doubt in my head Owen will get more than his fair share of goals despite his injury problems. A club like United will suit a finisher of Owen’s ability. But do these 3 signings make United stronger than they were last season? Unlikely.
Liverpool – Pretty much the same squad an the most significat addition is Glenn Johnson. Johnson may be a classy player who is now better than when he was at West Ham and Chelsea, but is still defensively suspect. Álvaro Arbeloa has been offloaded to Real Madrid and Xabi Alonso may yet follow him out. Javier Mascherano’s future is still under speculation. A better team than last season? I doubt.
Chelsea – They made the biggest signing among the big 4 clubs, Yuri Zhirkov. But their own signings are mediocre players not intended for the first team. With their aging players another year older, will that make them a better team than last season? Unlikely, and although I rate Zhirkov highly, I do not see him being the one key factor in helping Chelsea regain the title. Carlo Ancelotti is an overrated manager, with a prestigious club name that attracts the world’s best talents year after year, Milan boasts of some of the world’s best players like Kaka, Maldini, Ronaldinho and now Pato. Despite the huge array of experienced and proven top players, he only won the Serie A once – 5 seasons ago. I don’t see him being a huge success at Chelsea, I’m sorry.
What about us? We signed the captain of Ajax, Thomas Vermaelen. I have seen him in pre-season and I like what I saw. His style suits Arsenal and his tendency to play high up the field which can catch him exposed is one of the few weaknesses he has displayed but I think that will improve with time. Besides, he is still integrating into the team. Wenger knew our defence needed some freshening up and he has gone out and done that. Toure was dropped from the first team for a significant period of time last season and even the biggest Kolo fan would agree he was not up to the task last year. Ademoneyor only scored 16 goals last season, only 1 more than Nicklas Bendtner.
Eduardo has returned, Arshavin will have his first full season having fully adapted to the league, Rosicky is back fit. Nicklas Bendtner now will have more chances to play and will definitely continue to improve, and youngsters like Denilson, Song and Ramsey has another year’s experience. Are we stronger? Yes, we are. While other teams were strong last season, most of them are filled with players at their peak, they can only maintain their strength if they do not add. While we having these youngsters can only get better.
Yes, Gooners worry about players such as Cesc, van Persie and Walcott leaving if we continue to be starved of success. But departures like these are a boost to the young players more than anything els because they see an opportunity to grab a first team spot. Cesc and Walcott came through the same way. And Ramsey and Whilshere are both looking very strong in pre-season, their form no doubt reasons why Wenger is relunctant to spend. Although I maintain having an experienced player will push the youngsters even harder, it doesn’t mean we are any weaker if we do not replace the 2 players who gave very little last season.
Having listed the above, doesn’t the future seem much brighter than what the media would have you believe?
Oh City? I must say I’ve always respected their midfield. But with a manager like Hughes at the helm, I’m not sure they will play a smooth, fluid kind of football we Arsenal can produce. I’m not even sure Hughes can last another season but that is another topic for another day. How fast they can gel and play as a cohesive unit remains to be seen. You can argue they are all intelligent players who can play with anyone but so is Robinho but what happens to him whenever he plays in away games?
I’m not sure Hughes is tactically strong enough to bring out the best in his expensively-assembled squad. To be perfectly honest, I still think they are some way off to challenging for a Champions League place. However, I believe they can now consistently challenge the likes of Everton and Aston Villa -who both, by the way, also did not significantly add to their squad.
To end today’s post, I will put my perspective on the latest transfer rumour: Arsenal going for Patrick Vieira, which Wenger did not rule out. I mentioned in earlier posts that I would be very surprised if Vieira really went to Spurs and I maintain that. As for Vieira returning to Arseanal, I have my doubts as well. I think Wenger was just trying to sound diplomatic. He said the same thing about Thierry Henry last season but we all know he would never return to Arsenal as a player.
I watched the Hannover game and I will review that in my next post. Really looking forward to the Emirates Cup!