Ten Things we learned from Kolo Toure’s fascinating interview about his time at Arsenal

I wanted to get the Arsenal v Munich Champions League match out of way before recommending Gooners to a Podcast I watched last week on YouTube.

Kolo Toure was the latest guest on the ‘High Performance‘ series.

One of the biggest myths that exists in our fanbase is that Mr Wenger was simply fortunate to inherit a legendary back 4 but that he couldn’t actually identify a centre back himself. In reality he brought Kolo Toure for 150k!

Just think about this …. the only outfield player to feature in every League game we went unbeaten for a season cost us just 150k.
I admire any player who maximises his career. The Ivorian is an Invincible in two countries while playing for 4 of the biggest clubs in the UK and winning honours for his nation.

Here’s 10 things we learnt ………

Arsenal were his 4th trial!

There is an irony about Toure’s trial in North London. By the time he was invited to train with us for two weeks in 2002, the 20-year-old had been rejected by Anderlecht, Strausberg and Basel.

In all respect to those clubs. How can someone be turned down by those three sides yet be considered good enough for the Champions of England?

This again makes a mockery of the suggestion that Mr Wenger couldn’t identify a centre back. In one of the greatest tactical decisions in our history he identified the youngster as having the potential to be able to learn how to play in a brand-new position.

That Tackle!

The man himself explains that the bigger the stage, the less expectation he had on himself to earn a contract. It meant less pressure which gave him more freedom. Perhaps too much freedom?

Training with the first team for a fortnight, there was a session where the squad were ordered not to tackle as they had a game upcoming.

Toure got over excited …….three times.

Getting carried away he slid in on Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, described as ‘red card challenges’.

He wasn’t finished yet. He ended up doing the same to Mr Wenger….sending the manager to the medical room! The dressing room found the funny side and encouraged their boss to make the trial permanent.

Father Figure

Just because those in the changing room admired the gumption of the newcomer it doesn’t mean the man who mattered the most was amused.
Some managers sat with an ice pack around their foot because of a reckless tackle would have ended the trial immediately. Yet the player explains Mr Wenger would later confess he viewed that moment as a sign of how passionate the player was.

Now 44, throughout the interview Toure describes the Frenchman as ‘like my father’.

It’s telling how many Gunners have described their boss like this.

Toure explains that it’s part of his culture to ‘respect your elders‘, listen when they speak and it was almost rude to speak without being spoken to first.

Both remain in regular contact today.

Did Wenger Do Tactics?

In his final years the more Mr Wenger got disrespected by Gooners who were unable to show him the same loyalty he had given them.
The latest myth was that he actually didn’t teach his players tactically on the training pitch. The suggestion was he wouldn’t prepare his men for the opposition, only focusing on what his players would do. Some found this arrogant and naive.

Toure explains the truth.

His theory is that the manager had already started his tactical plan while recruiting. The search criteria would be those with intelligence who could work out themselves how to solve a problem. This is why at half times Mr Wenger left it to the dressing room to converse with themselves.

It’s no coincidence that so many players during our most successful period could play in more than one position.

Mr Wenger taught Henry how to transition from the wing into a striker, Convinced Lauren to be a right back, Pires and Ljungberg never stayed on the left or right of midfield, Bergkamp essentially was a number 10. While Toure of course was trained into a defender.


Whether it was winning silverware, during a trophy drought or in his final years, Mr Wenger was proud of the atmosphere at the club, always insisting that spirit in the group was fantastic.

In training, Toure explains the level was higher than an actual match.

Off the pitch though he paints a picture of works mates being ‘Brothers’. Not just would players socialise with each other but so would wives and girlfriends. Vieira most of the time would play host at dinner parties.


As many of you know I think mentality is crucial in sport and have often questioned over the years how strong our mindset has been.
Toure clearly agrees, citing leadership as the key reason why Arsenal last won the title and a lack of leaders as the reason we haven’t since.

Explaining how the dressing room had various types of leaders, he describes Vieira as setting standards without being vocal, Henry demanding everything was perfect, Lehmann being bossy, Bergkamp leading by example, etc.


Knowing how proud Mr Wenger was of the spirit in his dressing room it will hurt him to hear Toure explain he left Arsenal because the ‘culture had become toxic.’

A bigger motivation was mostly likely the salary Man City were offering but, on the podcast, Toure insists his preference was to stay at the Emirates.

Now one of the more experienced players in a young squad, the defender noticed that youth meant standards were dropping and that there wasn’t enough leaders to set an example.
Where he once labelled his peers as ‘brothers’ now he felt that a couple of his teammates were selfish and that Mr Wenger wasn’t taking his side. He doesn’t mention Gallas by name but he has in the past.

First Impressions

Fresh evidence that Man City didn’t have any kind of ambition until they were brought by a state in 2008, Toure explains his shock of what he witnessed in his first few months in Manchester.

Mark Hughes was now able to buy players used to winning things, but there remained players from the previous regime.

In training Man City would do the same drills that Arsenal would do. Yet, where in London Toure’s peers were serious and angry at giving the ball away, at Toure’s new place they would laugh and mess around.

Trusted as captain at the Etihad, Toure’s demeanour made it clear he now wanted things to be done correctly.

His Real Brother

It’s a shame that Kolo describes the highlight of his career being in Manchester not London. He’s not referring to any medals but the fact he got to live and work in the same city as his brother Yaya.

Both sides of Manchester will be fascinated to hear Kolo talk his sibling out of a move to Old Trafford. Yaya listened to his big bro, that they could create something at the Etihad and become legends.

Growing up poor in Africa, the brothers both toured Europe as professionals. That meant the majority of their adults lives were spent living in separate parts of the world.

At 27 and 29 respectively, now the two could finally play alongside each other.

The manager

Like so many great players, Kolo would struggle to then manage talent not as good as the ones he had played with. Not just on the pitch!

Toure admits he naively held Wigan to the standards he had been set at Arsenal, City and Liverpool. In a sense, Toure the manager has been hurt by Toure the players success? Playing for the three biggest clubs in England meant Toure was always surrounded by ambition.
He had been surrounded by a structure in his career to try and win honours.

Wigan were set up to avoid relegation from the Championship.

Here was a rookie coach trying to teach future league one players methods taught by Mr Wenger to Thierry Henry.

This is a young man who has not given up on management. He watched the Cup of Nations at home with a notebook writing how he would react to certain situations.

Kolo Toure is one of the good guys in the sport and I wish him all the best finding his next job.

Once a Gunner always a Gunner


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  1. Not slating the back four he inherited but Campbell Toure Cole and Lauren were all upgrads and the best defence I’ve seen as an Arsenal fan

  2. His greatest success at Arsenal in my view was the year we reached the CL final against Barcelona with a back 4 of Senderos, Toure, Eboue and Flamini and this supposed back 4 conceded the least number of goals en-route to the final. Of course Martin Keown was there as an advisor in the training ground preparing them with Toure the most vocal of the 4.

  3. Hugely intereting piece Dan.
    I have to say though that I am prominent among those Gooners who did and still do say that, over rhis 22 year stay, AWs record in buying so many awful and quite a few merely middling CB s was his greatest weakness
    I nevr thought Kolo a great CB myself, though he had that stellar Invincibles season alongside Wengers greatest of all CB’s in CAMPBELL who he persuaded to leave Spuds and on a free.

    A massive acheivement for sure.

    I also agree that though he did inherit the Graham back five(not four) he DID exten their careers and is due massive credit for thast too.

    But other than those mentioned, his best CB actual PURCHASE, was the menerly good though far from great Koscielny and the inujry hit Vermaalen.

    To list his MANY dud CB’s would fill a page, so I will not do so.

    . But as a judge of a top class CB, taken overall, he was poor to very bad, taken over his whole 22 years, starting with the clumsy Senderos.

  4. Dan, a interesting article, that I had to go back to the headline before commenting on !!
    I would have said that it should have read “What we learned about Arsene Wenger from Kolo Toure’s viewpoint.

    It’s amazing to me how fans still believe that AW did so many things wrong, but still can’t or won’t listen to what the players involved say about the man and Kolo’s words are a classic example.
    The idea that we could finish in the top four year after year, without a defence, a plan, a structured playing style and total commitment is absurd and, quite frankly, pathetic.

    On to the man himself – totally underated by so many, including fans, pundits and the media.
    His attitude and demeanour reminds me so much of Saka and he just got on with his work without any problems.
    I think Campbell (one of my all time favourite players for differing reasons) was very lucky to have him as his CB partner and both thrived and learnt from each other.

    Who can forget how he always ran to the North Bank before the game started, normally with a wide grin on his face?

    The biggest accolade I can give him, is that he was better than Bould and Keown and would have made GG’s defence even better and the only other player who, in my opinion, would oust him from that wonderful Invincible defence, MIGHT be Saliba – there’s only a cat’s whisker between them.

    What a wonderful career and I’m certain he’s said many many times “Merci Arsene.”

    1. I find it quite astoinishing \KEN that you could even rate Toure in the same quality and company as Bould esp and also of Keown . They bothb hadl ong and successful careers here.

      Kolo is a hugely engaging man and I suggest you are letting your obvious fondness of him- something I too share BTW- taint your sober rminded consideration of him as an all time Arsenal great CB.

      To my mind he was NEVER of that quality. Likeable, engaging, efficient, a good player, but in BOULDS COMPANY? You must be”avin a laugh, guvnor!”

    2. “It’s amazing to me how fans still believe that AW did so many things wrong” – the reason so many fans believed that was because of 14 years straight of not being competitive in the league. His last 8/9 years in Europe were embarrassing! And let’s not forget 9 years straight without a single trophy.

      Those are absolutely huge numbers, and to not get the sack until 2018 is honestly the most remarkable thing I’ve ever witnessed in football. At any other big club, AW would never have made it past 2010, and even then I’m being generous.

  5. Of course you find it astonishing JON, because you have no clue what a CB does.
    You maintain that Wenger had no idea what a CB does, but ignore FACT that his teams always finished in the top four, bar his last two seasons.
    I also suggest you check GA record when Kolo was at The Arsenal, versus time of said Bould and Keown.

    I agree that Martin Keown was great CB, but Bould was not even in Keown’s class and, in my opinion, Kolo was better than both of them.

    Let me detail out Kolo’s list of honours :

    PL Winner twice 2003/4 2011/12
    FA cup Winner 2002/3 2004/5
    CS Winner 2002 – 2004 – 2012
    While at The Arsenal and city.
    SP Winner 2016/17
    SLC Winner 2016/17 while at Celtic.

    He was also at the heart of our Invincible squad and had numerous international caps.

    The longevity of his time at the top of his trade spans more than a decade.

    Now, as you think that I’m wrong, perhaps you would list Bould and Keown’s time at the top and honours for comparison?
    I’m sure most people would say that Everton (Keown) and Stoke (Bould) hardly rivals city, but I await your response with interest.

    1. I wouldn’t even put Adams above Kolo Ken let alone bould and Keown ,might seem controversial regarding Adams but kolo and Campbell were a completely different animal compared to CBS the decade before .
      Not sure how any so called Arsenal fan could possibly think the opposite.
      As for CBS Wenger signed plenty of great CBS another myth to beat the man

      1. One who comes to mind immediately is Per Mertesaker, who read the game better than I can read a book DK!!

        JON – I have to apologise for, seemingly, snapping at you, some sad news personally has made me feel very irritable.

        However, I stand by my view that Kolo was a better player than you give him credit for.

        I’m taking a couple of days out, so let’s hope we beat villa and Bayern – COYG!!

        1. Sorry to hear of you bad news Ken . Hope you feel more like yourself very soon. I hadn’t noticed that you had, apparently, snapped at me. Our reguar print quarrels are at least entertainment for others and I took no offence, as none was meant, I feel sure.
          Come back soon please old chum!

          1. Another fine gentleman I guess.
            And I really do admire your comments on here @Jon..you are frank….though sometimes provocative as it may seem.

            It boils and boils good lol….when you see Admin Pat, Dan Kit, Jon Fox and Ken1945 on the comments space.

            “Dan initiates, Ken adds, Jon hits and Pat mops up…..

            It is a beautiful family!

            1. An interestingtake on JA spats, Jo -Gunz.

              My own family is much more peaceful though then someof the threads onJA, thankfully. You areright howevw rto callus “family” as we are all Arsenal fans!

              But I would not personally want to wake up and see certain of those on JA around MY breakfast table.

              I am certain many of my fellow Gooners would NOT wish to see me there either.

  6. He was much better than what was to follow in terms of Wegner’s centre halves but I do think we overate him and overlook his flaws. Unless my memory has totally failed me I do remember one crucial Champions League game verses Bayern Munich where their two goals could partly be put down to Toure “blunders”. Also sorry to hear about your feeling down Ken. Hope the cycle reverses itself soon.

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