From the moment of his arrival, Toure endeared himself to Arsenal fans with his whole-heartedness and the physicality of his play. He started his career at the club as a utility player mainly deployed as a full-back or midfielder. Playing like Arsene Wenger’s personal attack dog, he ran tirelessly and put himself into challenges that many others would have flinched at. After a couple of years, he switched to a centre-back role where his lack of height was more than compensated for by his competitive attitude, strength and mobility.
At one time, he looked a strong contender to take the Arsenal captaincy and one imagines that he would have been very much in the Tony Adams mould had that occurred. Some argued that he would have been a better choice to lead the team than Thierry Henry. As great a player as Henry was, he will not be remembered for being a good captain. If anything, the role seemed to distract him from his own game - and his style demanded a certain level of single-mindedness and indeed, selfishness. Subsequently, Toure has captained the team on occasion and has been vice-captain for a couple of seasons too and we can only speculate how his and the club’s fortunes might have turned had he been given the role full-time several years ago.
Unlike Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure is a player who will be missed and, despite him moving to another Premier League team, he will retain a place in the hearts of many Arsenal supporters for years to come. As a member of title-winning "Invincibles" in 2003/04 and an FA Cup winner in 2003 and 2005, his place in Arsenal’s history is secure.
As sad as it is to see the Ivorian go, it has to be said that in cold, hard business terms £16m looks to be a very decent price for a defender who has arguably lost a bit of his edge over the past couple of seasons and is now heading towards the wrong side of his peak years - and considering that he was bought for a mere £250,000. Whatever one may think of Arsene Wenger’s transfer policies, there is no doubt he is a very shrewd judge of the optimum time to let players leave. Under current circumstances though, this sale will only turn out to be a great deal for the club if the Frenchman re-invests the money he has pocketed from the two summer transactions with City and acquires a couple more players where the team needs them most. Everyone will have their own opinions as to where those areas of the squad are likely to be but most seem to agree that a combative midfielder would be the key to give the squad the final bit of balance that it needs. Should Wenger not spend any of the profits from the sales of Adebayor and Toure, it would represent a massive gamble - both with the club’s fortunes next season and, potentially, his own job.
Over the past weeks, there have been reports in the media claiming that Arsene Wenger is severely restricted in his transfer funds and possibly would not even be able to use the money from the sales of Adebayor and Toure to buy further players. That these rumours are all transparently traceable back to the loathsome Alisher Usmanov tells us much about their validity. The Uzbeck businessman is clearly using the media and, most disappointingly the BBC in particular, to try to stir up trouble by engineering these claims. Perhaps Arsenal fans ought to pay more attention to the fact that Arsene Wenger has never come out and complained about lack of transfer funds he is given and the current board have never said anything other than that money would be made available to the manager should he require it.
Over the past few years, and in the face of competition from clubs who are happy to sell themselves out to become a rich man’s plaything, Arsene Wenger and the Gunner’s board of directors have tried to adopt a model of running the club on sound business principles and as a viable going concern. Wenger is left to get on with footballing matters and the board take care of the business end of things. Arsenal supporters ought to be very proud of this set-up. From its rise to prominence in the 1930s under the leadership of Herbert Chapman the club has always prided itself on doing things "the right way" and what Arsene Wenger has achieved over the last 12 years verges on the miraculous considering how frugal and shrewd he has been in his transfer dealings. During all that time, the current board have not taken money out of the club in dividends and no one person holds overall majority control. These are things that should be looked upon favourably.
Some might be seduced by the claims that Usmanov has been making through the press and via his financial advisor Fahrad Moshiri. (Why should we take anything this individual says seriously anyway? He is a nobody.) It seems quite clear that the Uzbeck is rocking the boat for his own personal motives rather than for the greater good of Arsenal Football Club.
Usmanov is a man with a very murky past and, though the FA’s "fit and proper" rules for directors seem not to exclude anybody these days, there are plenty of question marks surrounding both his history and future motives. Him being a confirmed Man Utd fan should be the least of our worries. Arsenal fans should be highly sceptical of anything that emanates from him or his cover organisation, Red and White Holdings, and the idea of him getting into a position of holding majority control over the club is one to be resisted and opposed at all costs. An influx of shadily-earned money does not necessarily mean that success will follow and the club’s independence is the "family silver" that ought not to be sold cheaply.
It does seem though that the battle lines are being drawn for a boardroom war over the coming months. On one side are Danny Fiszman and Stan Kroenke and on the other is Alisher Usmanov and, lurking in the background, his sidekick, the now-untrustworthy David Dein. As supporters, all we really care about is what is happening on the pitch but, sadly, it looks like this struggle for power is something that will be filling the back-pages as well as the business pages, particularly as Usmanov appears to be intent on dragging matters into the public arena at the slightest opportunity no matter how this might undermine the club’s reputation and the morale of the fans.
It is a shame that off-the-field matters are encroaching on the build-up to the season because, despite all the recent negative press, there are actually some very good reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season. The squad is finally beginning to get some balance about it. We will see the best of Andrey Arshavin now he is fully fit and integrated into the team. Tomas Rosicky is back from long-term injury and our young players have another year of experience behind them. If the manager can just find that hard-tackling midfielder we lack and perhaps a tall centre-back to manage aerial threats a bit more effectively, there is no reason for fans not to be approaching the new season with a fair degree of positivity and hope.
The sooner the talking stops and the football starts, the better.