So it’s official – Kolo Toure has joined Manchester City.
That it is a sterling piece of business is undeniable – around £15m for a player who has lost some of the recovery pace that defined his game and covered for his stray positioning is huge, especially given how he would have missed a large (and critical) chunk of the season with the African Nations Cup coming up.
Yet somehow it is impossible to feel entirely satisfied with the move. I guess it is sometimes difficult to separate the emotional part of football from the business. It is a clever move – with Wenger being so thorough in analysing a player’s physical attributes, he would not strengthen City if he thought Toure could return to his best. But at the same time, Toure is Arsenal through and through. Sure, he had his difficulties last season, mainly with Gallas, but that settled down and seemed to be consigned to history.
Now, we have to get used to the very strange sight of Kolo turning out against us in the Premiership. What will be most notable will be the reception he gets – I can tell you now that he’ll get a massive ovation. His recently departed colleague will not be given the same honour.
And therein lies the crux with Toure. From day one, a substitute appearance at Chelsea, he worked his socks off, left his heart and soul on the pitch, and even after the unprecedented success of the Invincibles season, never once rested on his laurels, even as that team was dismantled around him. That is why he will remain a favourite – Bergkamp got it right the other day when he said, in giving advice to Arshavin, that it isn’t enough in England to have talent, you have to show you care. Kolo did, in every match he played.
So thanks Kolo, and good luck at City, for 36 league games a year.
Looking forward, and the clamour has already begun for Wenger to spend the money. That we are light in central midfield has been covered time and time again, but with Toure now gone we are a little short at the back, assuming one or both of Senderos and Eboue follow him out the door. Big Phil seems unwanted, while Eboue seemed to be waving goodbye the other night, and may be heading to Italy. If he does, Sagna has no backup.
Wenger, as always, is keeping his cards close to his chest, first suggesting that he isn’t really looking, and then throwing into conversation that he is ‘looking at options’. Frustrating as it might be for us to have only these scraps of information to go on, it is a measure of the class of our football club that we don’t resort to the sort of unsettling tactics used by Mark Hughes recently, in claiming John Terry needed a new challenge. Although it leaves us in the dark, I’m glad we do our business quietly.
And I expect there to be some business, although not as much as some hope. I’m convinced we won’t sign a striker (and I’m even more convinced we won’t see Vieira back), but I’d be amazed if no-one came in at all. And I’d expect the main, and perhaps only, arrival to be a midfielder, as Wenger seems to think he has enough defenders (it is, after all, one in one out from last season).
Let’s face it – Wenger knew he was short of a central midfielder last summer, hence the attempts to sign Alonso. Now, with a formation being trialled in pre-season that requires an extra one, it doesn’t take a man of his intelligence to realise the need has just gone up. It will happen, I’m sure of it.
But I did want to make one final point, and it is one I made on Twitter earlier. Picture yourself in a workplace, a regular office workplace. Now imagine you have hit the proverbial glass ceiling, looking at talented individuals above you in the hierarchy, waiting for one of them to leave.
Now imagine that day coming, when a senior member of staff moves on. Many of us have been there – everyone expects the opportunity to move up the ranks. Why? Because you feel you deserve a shot as a more responsible position. And if you don’t get it, time and time again, you leave. The same story repeats everywhere.
Yet somehow, in football, fans seem to expect it to work unlike any other industry. I’m not sure some appreciate how much a year’s experience does improve a player, like it can in any walk of life. Perhaps it is easier to spot a player in decline rather than one improving aspects of their game as they move through their early twenties.
The point I am making is this – we do not need to replace an established first team striker with another, or an established first team defender with another. It is fine to be like that office, promoting from within if the talent is there (which in Eduardo, Bendtner, Van Persie, Arshavin and more up front, it is), and bringing in younger (junior) talent. If the talent is not there, then by all means bring someone more senior in (case in point: Vermaelen).
It is an analogy that works. What point is there spending £15m on a player and forcing another out who would be just as good at the same age? The net player gain is zero, and you’re £15m down.
Of course, it is difficult sometimes to see past the here and now, but we have a man in charge who sees all these things, and makes the calls he believes to be the best. He deserves our trust.