So, here’s a classic example of how Arsene Wenger could spot a gem and turn him into an Arsenal superstar. It also makes a myth of the notion he couldn’t spot a defender, apparently lucky that he inherited George Graham’s back 4. In 2002, for just 150 000, we signed an unknown player from ASEC Mimosas in the Ivory Coast whilst our rivals were splashing out millions. While often in his brother’s shadow, he went on to win 2 Premierships, 2 FA Cups, 1 SPL and an African Nations Cup.
Kolo Touré – played 326 Scored 14
Debuted during the 2002/2003 season as the ultimate utility squad player, featuring in numerous defensive and midfield positions and quickly became a fan favourite due to his work ethic. Thanks to him his baby brother Yaya came to London for a trial. Yaya had a bigger reputation then his sibling, but our manager felt his display at Barnet in a friendly was ‘average’.
Having failed to retain our title and the signing of Pascal Cygan having not worked out the club were under pressure in 2003 to spend serious money on a centre back with Keown ageing. At a time when Roman Abramovich had purchased Chelsea, many gooners were not satisfied that our solution was to ask Kolo to play out of position. The outcome was an ever present in a title campaign where we didn’t lose a single match.
In his role, he had a knack for getting goals, scoring the last ever European goal at Highbury. During the move to the Emirates he stepped up as one of our main leaders in the dressing room. His age and injury record in his final 12 months made his transfer to Man City work for everyone. He is developing as a coach under Brendan Rodgers at Leicester meaning a place in our staff one day is a possibility. Internationally he was part of Ivory Coast’s golden generation always accused of underachieving until he won the Cup of Nations in 2015.
Unlike other ex gooners who moved to Manchester, Kolo always gets a positive reaction on his return to North London.