It would be unfair to place Kolo Toure in the same bracket as his former and current team mate Emmanuel Adebayor. Yet on reflection, most Arsenal fans will conclude that the events of the past week, which have seen Manchester City spend the not insignificant sum of £40m on the pair, was a very good piece of business indeed.
For a start, neither of them really wanted to be at The Emirates anymore. Toure asked to leave in January when it was clear that he was no longer a first choice. Adebayor had one good season in which he scored at will—against Derby and Spurs. He followed that with a 12-month “come-and-get-me” campaign that mirrored his form. He began by aiming at AC Milan and ended up hitting Eastlands.
The fact that both wanted out, and Arsenal were still able to command top of the market prices tells you all you need to know about Manchester City’s transfer policy. Take what you can get, pay what you have to pay, and hope for the best. Top players at top clubs (Kaka and Terry are two that immediately come to mind) don’t want to be part of the City experiment—at any price.
It’s not just the money (although there is no denying that, if reinvested wisely in a top holding midfielder, it could significantly improve the team). It’s the knowledge that, ultimately, Toure and Adebayor were not consistently good enough to push Arsenal on to the real challenges ahead. In the past four seasons Toure and Adebayor have won nothing with Arsenal. Alternatively, Arsenal has won nothing with Toure and Adebayor.
Manchester City have paid £40m for two players who are not good enough to play for a top two, let alone a top four club. Will they make City stronger? Maybe. But not strong enough to move them in to the highest echelons of domestic or European football. Has their departure made Arsenal weaker? An unequivocal no. Eduardo and van Persie are better than Adebayor will ever be and Bendtner has the ability and willingness to play as the lone front man in a way the offside-prone striker never could.
In Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal seems to have found a partner for William Gallas, something Toure was not and could not be (the fallout between the pair lead to Toure’s transfer request in January 2009).
Since the “Invincible” season of 2003/04, Arsenal’s defence has been in a permanent state of flux. Back then, alongside the likes of Campbell and Keown, Toure was the answer to Wenger’s favourite conundrum—how best to move defence to attack at lightning speed and with maximum efficiency.
Quick and athletic, he was a footballer more than a central defender. And with a good defensive unit around him (Lehmann, Lauren and Cole) he never looked out of place. Since Campbell’s departure, his technique and ability have been exposed. He has become the problem. Picture Toure now and you see the out-of-position number five desperately struggling to get goal side of his man. Toure was a good servant at Arsenal. Unfortunately his time is up.
The pressure now is on Wenger. He’s not interested in the scattergun approach adopted by City, nor can he afford to be. But with £40m in the kitty the Arsenal boss has no excuses if he fails to strengthen the squad for the rigours of the sixty game plus season ahead. Selling Toure and Adebayor was part of the solution. Now Wenger has a bigger problem to solve.
(By Barry Frankfurt)