Football FanCast columnist Kris Wilcox doesn't begrudge Toure of his move one little bit, but thinks City fans would be wrong to think such a move weakens Arsenal.
I fully intended to write an article essentially thanking Kolo Toure for his service to Arsenal, as the last remaining first team member of the invincibles squad, and explaining, with the outmost respect to Toure, why this is the best move for our team but I think it's also worth pointing out how this move barely increases City's chances of overtaking Arsenal in Premier League.
Unlike Adebayor, I don't begrudge Toure one bit for going to the riches of Manchester, he leaves on fantastic terms with our club. We'll never forget the sheer effort and commitment he gave on the pitch, as well as some fantastic performances and even goals! We'll also not forget that neither reason he's going is his fault. Firstly, in a similar vein to Vieira and Henry, Toure leaves with his manager's belief that he offers little more to the football club and with an equally hefty transfer fee to both Frenchmen coming into Arsenal's coffers. Secondly we all, deep down, know Wenger treated Kolo incredibly unfairly in giving Gallas the captaincy. It is not with hindsight knowing what an awful job Gallas did that I say this either, realistically we all expected Gilberto to get the captaincy that year, and if not Gilberto then Toure. I've heard some people say Toure had no leadership skills, that is entirely wrong, as what leadership skills he had were sucked from him by that shocking decision from Wenger to give the captaincy to his playing partner, who had been at Arsenal for less time, had spent most of his career at a rival and, in actual fact, not performed nearly as well on the pitch. I was disgusted at Wenger's failure last year to sign the central midfielder that was so obviously needed, and will be even more disgusted this year if he fails to do so again, but in his whole period at Arsenal choosing Gallas over Toure and Gilberto was the worst decision he ever made. I'd love to know Wenger's reasons in detail for his decision but, with all the considerable respect I have for our manager, I refuse to dismiss the theory that if Gilberto or Toure were French they'd have got the captaincy.
You'll notice how, in the opening sentence, I did not state how City's move for Toure doesn't increase their chances of making the top four. In reality I think it does, whilst I believe we have got a fantastic deal for Toure, I must admit that Manchester City have bought a quality player. A player who is certainly getting older, a player who definitely will miss a large portion of the season due to the African Cup of Nations, a player who has never looked the same since contracting malaria 18 months ago, a player who mentally has suffered from a bit of a lack of confidence in recent times, but a player who, nevertheless, is 10 times better in every single way than either Richard Dunne or Micah Richards. We're deluding ourselves if we think Toure won't make Manchester City stronger. He will. I even think someone like Tony Adams coming out of retirement would improve a City defence that relies on Dunne, a natural leader and natural reader of the game, but hardly a natural footballing talent and Micah Richards, promising in his first full seasons in English football, but promising only because he developed very quickly possessing great strength and blistering pace, but hasn't yet and probably won't show the skill Dunne has in reading the game. If you could mix the two together you'd have a very good footballer, but actually playing the two together (or using the young Onuoha or inept Tal Ben Haim) resulted in City, though scoring the fifth most goals of any premier league team, conceding a whopping 50 goals. Barring injury, the signing of Toure, and presumably given the incessant chasing of Lescott and Terry another centre half, will definitely improve City's defence which, given the amount of goals they scored last year, was the actual weak part of their team, not the strike force that has had over £60 million invested in it! You'll therefore again notice how I would not rule out City getting fourth place. I don't think it will happen, I don't think Mark Hughes is a good enough manager both tactically and in experience of controlling big name players. We can only talk of City's team on paper, but I'll be the first to admit that the City team last year looked better than our own seriously raw squad, yet they came no-where near us. I think City need to focus more on overtaking teams of the quality of Everton and Aston Villa and even Spurs and Fulham all of whom have and will continue to invest this summer in new players. Yet, I wouldn't rule them out of gaining a top four place, but they sure as hell aren't going to get it off us.
As much as City fans think that signing Kolo Toure improves their team, they believe the merit of the deal is that it weakens Arsenal's, the side they consider the weakest of the top four. To be frank, that is total rubbish. At this moment in time, excluding Toure, we have five central defenders at the club, and Song who can play there. This year marks the first time we've seen Wenger spend big money on a defender, I can't exactly guarantee Thomas Vermaelen will be a brilliant defender but given Wenger's track record on relatively unknown defensive signings you certainly aren't about to bet against it. A lot this season will also depend on Johan Djourou who, I must admit, looked fantastic at times last season and gave me the belief that Gallas and Toure were fighting to partner him in central defence. Ultimately he got a few injuries and Gallas and Toure re-established themselves as the first choice pairing. Then we found Silvestre was suddenly ahead of him in the pecking order, which confused me greatly. All the same the signs are in pre season so far that Wenger's confidence in Djourou has been restored, as he seems to want to partner him with Vermaelen, which is good. If it is the case that we don't see a replacement signed for Toure, I believe it will be because Wenger believes Djourou will start the season alongside Vermaelen as the first choice defensive pair, not because Senderos has left or Wenger does the most physically scary of things and trusts in Silvestre. Then we have Gallas, who does certainly split opinion, but if we consider him our third choice central defender I think we're pretty well equipped especially when you consider United's third choice is Evans, Liverpool's only real back up to Carragher and Agger is Skrtel, who appears to be injured, and Chelsea's Carvalho is not trusted, though they can easily play Ivanovic there. I'll be honest, even with losing Toure, I still think our central defensive is well equipped to challenge for the title, not fend off City for fourth place. Our main criticism of the defence last year was that Toure and Gallas couldn't play together against some sides as they lacked the aerial ability. Some people may point out that Vermaelen is only 6ft but ultimately Fabio Cannavaro wasn't that high but he was one of the best aerial defenders in the world. Reading the game and a good jump are far more important skills aerially, both of which Thomas has recently said on the official website he considers himself very good at! Thus I think at some point, something City fans haven't realised, we expected to lose either Gallas or Toure and replace them with someone else thus restoring the balance required to our defence. We'd have all rather lost Gallas, but we'd have only got at max £5 million for him, and when pushed we'd all prefer Gallas and an extra £10 million than Toure, especially if Wenger doesn't get to spend all of Adebayor's £25 million.
As I appear to say in every article, I believe we are so close to having a side that can challenge for the league and I already think we have a side that can fend off United and Liverpool. Liverpool only really possess a squad of quality in their starting eleven and as Benitez loves to battle in the champions league I can't see them challenging for the title. United, on the other hand, I still do not believe have bought in any real quality. Potential in Obertan and Valencia, but not yet title challenging quality. Ferguson may have come out and said that Owen isn't a gamble, maybe financially it's not, but when you're counting on one injury prone player to replace Ronaldo and Tevez then it certainly is. From our point of view we should embrace both the service Kolo has given to this football club and embrace the money that, I certainly hope, will be invested into gaining a central midfield partner for Cesc. Manchester City fans, on the other hand, should start thinking more about who they can partner Kolo with in central defence and take a closer look at their local rivals and Liverpool instead of shouting about knocking Arsenal out of the top four.
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