Hoping his forehead doesn't come back like Kolo's backside
It’s almost been like an international week since we last played. There’s been plenty of run of the mill stuff going on around the Club with injury updates, transfer gossip and the eventual confirmation of Henry’s return. However, none of it has been particularly inspiring. In such circumstances you usually have to wait for Arsene Wenger to say something in order to have something to write about, and this week has been no exception.
Arsene did his pre-match press and official website duties yesterday and, amid the news on Vermaelen, Gibbs, Thierry and no further signings being altogether likely, there was some comment made upon the Africa Cup Of Nations. Arsene has spoken of his “fear” of the competition, and the effect that it can have on his players. He spoke about the pressurised nature of the competition, and the weather etc, and how it can mean a player coming back lacking in certain areas. Arsenal, of course, know this better than most after the experience of Kolo Toure.
Back in 2008 Arsenal were pushing at the top of the table, and the Title was well within our grasp. Kolo had gone off to play for Ivory Coast and been replaced by Philippe Senderos. Playing alongside William Gallas seemed to suit the Swiss defender’s style, and the pair were impressive together. Senderos had a good run of games under his belt, and his form was excellent. I remember playing Blackburn at home and winning, fairly comfortably, with Senderos among the goals that night. It put us eight points clear at the top of the Premier League. Within two weeks Kolo Toure was back at Arsenal, overweight and unfit, and back in the team. The defence slowly fell apart over the next two months, not helped by what happened at Birmingham with Eduardo and Gallas, or at Old Trafford in the FA Cup with the Manager sending the younger players to be slaughtered. Senderos would have little further involvement until a Champions League quarter-final second leg at Anfield when he was destroyed by Fernando Torres and left in tears at the final whistle. His Arsenal career was effectively over.There is no doubt that Wenger should not have selected Toure on his return as it upset the team that had been playing so well. However, it is clear that the problems for Toure stemmed from being away with Ivory Coast. The effect it then had on Arsenal was acutely felt. Kolo, himself, was never the same player for Arsenal after that. He seemed to get slower, and fatter, not helped by contracting malaria while on another international stopover. It all contributed to a decline that saw us happy to get so much money for him from Manchester City.
With all of this being the case it is little surprise that the Manager lives in fear of the Africa Cup Of Nations. I would argue that the tournament owes us one, so hopefully Marouane Chamakh will return this time as the player he was before Christmas 2010. That would be a very welcome thing indeed.
I’ll be doing a preview of the Leeds game, and the return of the King, tomorrow evening.