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Cheer Up Gooners, The Sky is NOT Falling!
Last night Arsenal confirmed the sale of Kolo Toure to Manchester City for a sum believed to be around £16m. This comes less than two weeks after former teammate and professional cunt Emmanuel Adebayor joined City having failed to interest a big club. Gazidis and Wenger negotiated fantastic returns on both players, bringing in around £40m. However, if you talk to most Arsenal fans you wouldn’t know how great these moves have been for the squad and for the club. Rather, one is likely to hear a return of the recurring insanity of previous summers and the inevitable doomsday predictions of Arsenal dropping out of the top four (see any post at ArsenalAction). Someone ought to tell them that no, the sky is not falling.
Fans need to look at the recent pieces of transfer business for what they are: fantastic financial gains for players who no longer were integral to the squad. Few tears will be shed over the departure of Adebayor. While Manchester City fans drool while waxing lyrically about how he scored 46 goals over the past two season, it should be noted that Adebayor’s past is not without an asterisk. The vast majority of those 46 goals came in a fluke 30-goal season in which he was fed chance after chance by Fabregas, Hleb and co. Anyone who watched that season would have noted that his conversion rate was abysmal, his knowledge and abuse of the offside rule is criminal, and he has the first touch of a rapist. In addition, Adebayor is a streaky player who either scores in bunches or not at all and is overly reliant on other creative talents within the team. Then there is his glaring, inflated ego and disruptive attitude which has shown itself at both Metz and Arsenal and makes him a nightmare for any manager. His departure, especially for £25m, is one of the finest pieces of business ever done in global football.
Kolo Toure, while an Arsenal legend, is clearly past his best. Many of the people who are calling for Wenger’s head and demanding we not hold onto the manager’s past are the same people who think the sky is falling because a player whose best days were in the past has left. These are the same people who complain about Arsene breaking up the Invincibles. As if we would be in a better position with a team of 35 year olds. Kolo was a great servant of the club, but it isn’t 2004 any more. His performances over the past 18 months have been shocking and securing £15m for him is a job well done indeed.
So has the sale of these two players (and what appears to be the imminent sale of Emmanuel Eboue) left Arsenal weaker? In terms of manpower, sure. The potential loss of Eboue is, ironically, the most significant, as natsteel pointed out yesterday, leaving us very exposed at right back should Sagna get injured. However, it is the opinion of this author that the sale of these players was necessary and, in the end, will leave us in a stronger position. We have made a significant amount of money on players who destabalized the team. Kolo was a great player but his rift with Gallas and his apparent demotion to 3rd or 4th choice center back was obviously creating problems for him within the squad. The same can be said for the troublemaker Adebayor, who was a locker room disaster. Both were players who would not take well to being benched. Benching them would create a bad atmosphere for the club and playing them seems detrimental to the club’s success, holding back players like Bendtner and Djourou. In addition, the sale of these two, potentially three, players will limit our exposure to the ANC and allow there to be more continuity in the squad throughout the season.
Some may argue that the sales of Kolo and Adebayor to one of our possible rivals is a mistake of epic proportions. I, however, remain unconvinced. I do not see City as rivals, not in the least. The sale of an overrated, disruptive striker and an over-the-hill center back to them doesn’t change my opinion. The City squad is severely imbalanced. It lacks the components of a top four side and it lacks the manager to get them there. The likes of Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz have had one good season in the Premier League and, in both cases, it was the season before last. Adebayor has proven to need multiple chances to score and has shown throughout his career he is very prone to long goal droughts. In addition, he is overly reliant on creative players to create chances for him. City fans can’t honestly think that Steven Ireland and Shaun Wright-Phillips will be able to play at the same level as Fabregas and Nasri. Carlos Tevez, despite what City will have you believe, is far from a proven goalscorer in the Premier League. His best season came with him grabbing 13 goals in a side that had the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo pulling in defenders and feeding teammates balls. City might claim that Robihno is that type of player but that is pure insanity. Robihno is a good player, no one will doubt that, but he doesn’t shit gold.
City’s midfield leaves much to be desired as well. Shaun Wright-Phillips couldn’t make it at the top level, Barry has never been tested at it and Ireland is overrated. City lack the creative players that the top sides have in the middle of the park. Defensively, they are abysmal and signing Kolo Toure will not do much to fix that as he was a big contributor to Arsenal’s defensive deficiencies in the last two seasons. He has experience, sure, but at this point Kolo is a mistake waiting to happen. What happens when he leaves for the ANC? City will once again be stuck with their group of untalented and calamitous defenders during a crucial part of the season.
More important than personnel is the manager. Hughes just doesn’t have it in him to rival Arsenal. He is a good mid table manager but that is about it. His managerial career to date has been about packing men behind the ball in hopes of a draw. Can he manage all this attacking talent into a great attacking team? That remains to be seen and seems highly doubtful. Also, controlling egos like the ones he has in this squad has proven to be a tall order for much better managers in similar senarios. Both Jose and Fabio fell victim to superstar egos destroying their locker rooms. Robihno, Ade, Tevez and RSC will all want to play top minutes and none will take kindly to sitting on the bench, and this of course will create tension and disruptions.
Finally, City do not realize that money does not buy you success nor does it turn you into a big club. Chelsea qualified for Europe before Roman. Perez brought in the likes of Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo and Beckham to Madrid, going through several managers in the span of four years, and only won the league once. No one would argue that Madrid and Chelsea, their players, and the managers involved were much, much better then the set up at City and that cracking the top four in the Premier League is much harder than doing so in the La Liga of early 2000 or even the Premier League of 5 years ago. It is not an impossible task, for Hughes to take City into the top four, but it is extremely unlikely, at least in the very near future.
But the Arsenal Doom and Gloomers don’t see it that way. They see this season as our inevitable fall from grace. It is hard, however, to see why. Aston Villa have sold their captain and midfield lynch pin. Fulham over achieved and Everton, besides being even thinner than Villa, do not possess the quality or the depth to crack the top four. Manchester United have lost two players, who over the course of three seasons, have accounted for over 110 goals combined. The signing of Valencia, Owen and co. will hardly go far towards replacing production like that and this also overlooks the obvious weakness in a United team that lacks a creative midfielder, a right back and a good replacement for the aging Van Der Saar. Liverpool are guaranteed to lose Alonso, a big factor in their overachieving season and possibly Mascherano as well. The absolutely dreadful financial state of the club cannot bode well for their long term success. In addition, their only transfer activity this summer has been paying £17.5 m for a £4m player. Chelsea have brought in Zhirkov, which is a great addition, but starting the season with yet another new manager untested in the Premier League could spell disaster. Just look at what happened with Scolari.
After slowing down and looking at the top half of the table with some perspective and thought rather than emotional reactions, one must feel very good about Arsenal’s chances going into next season. I will be the first to admit that our squad is not perfect and still requires the addition of one or two extra players, most notably a strong, ball winning midfielder. But Arsene now has the funds and the time to make this happen. And while many pundits and bloggers are quick to claim we have directly strengthened a rival in City, it is far too frequently ignored that City has just given its supposed rival, and one of the best eyes for talent in the business, over £40m to play around with, which if used properly, will most certainly make Arsenal contenders for the title. As it is, the squad boasts a strong core of players who continue to improve. Almunia, Gallas, Clichy and Sagna make a strong back four while the likes of Djourou and Gibbs will provide excellent depth. Song has grown in leaps and bounds and Cesc is absolute magic, especially when combining with Le Petit Prince-Samir Nasri. The return of Rosicky and the anticipated emergence of Vela, Wilshere, and Ramsey will certainly add extra depth and quality to the side as well. Going forward, Arsenal are second to none in the Premier League. Players like Van Persie and Arshavin can always provide a moment of magic while clinical finishers like Eduardo and Vela can score out of nothing. The continued development of Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner adds up to an array of exciting attacking options and depth.
While we might still be a player or two short, Arsenal have a squad to be excited about and the manager and the money to add that little bit extra that is needed. We have strengthened in the off-season by removing some dead weight and bringing in another defender. The experiences of last season will have undoubtedly made the squad stronger and Wenger will surely have the lads raring to go for our league opener at Goodison Park. So cheer up Gooners, the sky is not falling!