The Wenger narrative, defending, and the funny Kolo Toure trial.

By Proud Kev

Walters great articles on some of our unsung and ‘cheap’ young talent, should make people think. Why do we have this obsession on transfer values and spending money? Do you really have to spend big money every transfer window to have success?

Now the FFM’s would state categorically that the answer to this question is yes. They would use Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez as evidence to support that argument, which would be hard to dismiss.

However, you could equally use the £100m Gareth Bale money Spurs invested and Manchester United’s £80m plus outlay on Di Maria and Falcao to counter that argument. This is without even entertaining the emergence of players like Francis Coquelin and Hector Bellerin.

Certainly the narrative from the media and the dissenting voices is that you have to spend big. They praise clubs spending big money on transfer fees but are ominously quiet when those players signed bomb. A player like Francis Coquelin will be called ‘good fortune’ and despite his on field performances the sneering voices will continue to claim we need a Defensive Midfielder.

The narrative continues that Wenger is tight and doesn’t like spending money.

This narrative claims that Arsene Wenger is tight. He is Stubborn. He won’t spend money because he doesn’t like spending money. A Manager who is so stubborn, he would rather lose games than spend money.

Every transfer window is cited as evidence against the accused. The narrative says Arsene Wenger cannot build defences and that Arsenal has never been able to defend.  Every goal conceded is highlighted and dissected by the pundits, conveniently ignoring any facts that contradict this view.  In fact, the narrative goes further; it suggests that Wenger was only successful on the back of the George Graham back four, an often repeated attempt to discredit Wengers success.

Despite the recycling of this narrative is it actually true?

Well the FFM have convinced themselves it is; happy to recycle and repeat to the already brainwashed fellow FFM’s. A false narrative recycled by mischief makers, agenda followers and those who believe Football Management is like popping down to the local Supermarket with your bag for life tucked under your arm.  An ideology of spend, spend, spend.

It is easy to expose the lie; let’s start at the beginning to the rebuilding of the Arsenal back four:

Rebuilding the back four 2000 and beyond

Wenger knew the old legs were tired. The entire back four needed to be replaced and a new goalkeeper found. Wenger needed better ball players at the back in order to play the fluid possession based football he prefers. Arsene made his plans along with his scouts and searched for the players he wanted, slowly integrating them into the team with experienced players. A massive rebuilding job required of a man the narrative suggests knows nothing about defending.

These were the players he bought in and the transfer fees he paid:

Lauren (£7.2m) Right Back

In 2000 Wenger signed the 23 year old Spaniard Lauren from Mallorca for £7.2m. A midfield player converted to play Right Back. Lauren was equally comfortable with the ball as he was making tackles and became an instant fan favourite. He played 32 games in our Invincible season.

Sol Campbell (Free) Centre Back

In 2001 Sol Campbell arrived on a free, courtesy of Bosman. His signing sent the ugly half of North London into a frenzy, after their club captain decided to swap two things: Losing for winning and a giant Cock for a Cannon. He played 35 games in our Invincible season.

Kolo Toure (£150,000) Centre Back

In 2002 a twenty year old Ivorian named Kolo Toure arrived for a trial. He played 37 games in our Invincible season. The story told by Ray Parlour about Kolo’s trial game, is worth repeating for those who may not know this hilarious story:

…the Kolo Toure trial

Parlour claims that Arsene Wenger likes to play trialists in small games, so he set up Martin Keown and Kolo Toure to play against Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. Not long into the trial and the ball’s played into Thierry Henry. From nowhere Kolo has come running in and taken Henry out from behind with a terrible tackle, a two footed tackle that would have been a red card in a game. Our best players rolling around on the ground and Arsene Wenger’s shouting: “Kolo, Kolo what are you doing, don’t tackle, don’t tackle”. Well Kolo Toure is all ‘sorry, sorry, sorry’.

Henry and Bergkamp had swapped now and the ball goes into Dennis. Kolo Toure does the same thing, two foots Dennis Bergkamp. We’re all saying, ‘oh my god this is terrible, our two best players, how are we going to win the league if our two best players have been taken out by a trialist?! He must be working for somebody else…..’.

Anyway, Wenger starts shouting, ‘’okay, okay no more tackling, no more tackling’’. Kolo Toure’s going ‘yes, yes, yes, sorry boss, sorry, sorry…’ Anyway the ball comes in and Kolo Toure makes a great tackle and the ball flicks up in the air.

Now in these games Arsene Wenger would stand in between the midfield and the forwards to look at the movement.   And so there he is: the ball’s gone up in the air and Kolo’s keeping his eyes on the ball and as the balls in the air where does it land? Right by Wengers foot and he’s only gone and two footed Arsene Wenger!! Proper tackle, he’s taken him out and all you can hear is ‘ooh, agh, ooh, agh….’ The lads are like, oh my god this is unbelievable, the trialist has taken out Henry, Bergkamp and Arsene Wenger on his trial. Now Wengers had to limp off to the medical room. So Kolo Toures nearly crying, he’s going “oh no, I can’t believe it”. But he’s taken out our two best players and the Manager.

Next day I go to the medical room and Arsene Wenger is sitting there with a big ice pack on his ankle. I felt sorry for Kolo so I said to Arsene, “I don’t think he meant to kick you like that boss”. Arsene goes “what, look at my ankle” and he’s got a big lump. I said, “Boss I don’t think he meant it”. Wenger said, “I know he didn’t mean it. I like his desire, I’ve decided to sign him………..”

But Kolo wasn’t the only nutter we signed, next up is the crazy German goalkeeper.

Jens Lehmann (£1.5m) Goalkeeper

Jens was signed in 2003 from Dortmund. The crazy German replaced David Seaman and became a legend ; probably the most entertaining goalkeeper we have ever had. His handling was assured and the biggest compliment you can play is that we didn’t miss David Seaman. He played all 38 league games in our Invincible season.

Ashley Cole (Free) Left Back

No comment. 32 games in our invincible season.

The entire back four including a goalkeeper had been rebuilt for a combined cost of just under £9m. This group of players would go on to be the foundation for our unbeaten season, the Invincibles and break Champions League records for clean sheets on their way to the Champions League Final.

The narrative we so often hear repeated crumbles upon simple examination.


This is clear proof Arsene Wenger knows a thing or two about defending. He replaced the George Graham back four and built a defence that went a season unbeaten as well as breaking clean sheet records on the way to the Champions League final. He achieved this for a total investment under £9 million.

Arsene Wenger is a visionary. He ignores transfer values and buys a player based on what his eyes tell him, not what the transfer fee suggests. He is the antidote to cheque book management. He is the anti-christ to the FFM.

Thierry Henry was a wing back struggling in Italian football before Arsene Wenger transformed him into one of the finest goalscorers in World football. Francis Coquelin has confounded the Wenger critics with his development. Hector Bellerin is another example.

How many more players does Arsene Wenger have to ‘find or ‘develop’ before the truth finally hits home! Is this really luck?

If you look at defending today and the transfer fees being paid, the Invincibles looks to be one of the finest achievements in Premier League history. Pound for pound it is unrivalled. You don’t have to take my word for it, just look at the recent transfer fees being paid for so called ‘proven’ defenders.

MAN CITY have recently spent £60m on two defenders; £32m on Mangala and £28m on Otamendi. This is excluding the £22m they spent on Joleon Lescott in 2009. MAN UTD spent £31m on Luke Shaw, £16m on Marcos Rojo and another £13m on the Italian Darmian.

ARSENAL has been much more conservative in their spending. In the last three years we have signed left back Monreal for just £7m, World Cup Winner Mertesacker £8m, Koscielny £10m, Debuchy £12m with Hector Bellerin signed from the Barcelona academy. Gabriel Paulista is the invisible transfer, a player signed for £11m – invisible because as he wasn’t signed in the recent transfer window, the FFM refuse to count him as a signing. Nonetheless, all these players have proved to be great acquisitions and offer more quality than the £60m the two Manchester clubs spent on just 2 or 3 players.

The evidence is there if you care to look for it.

Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest talent spotters and team builders of his generation. He builds success, he does not buy it.

This is a narrative you will never hear from the FFM. They do not have the knowledge or the willingness to accept the inconvenient truth. The truth hurts.

…….almost as much as being kicked by Kolo Toure.

Untold Arsenal

26 Replies to “The Wenger narrative, defending, and the funny Kolo Toure trial.”

  1. Great article Kev!
    To be honest I never heard that story of the Kolo Toure trial before. LOL that made me laugh out loud 🙂

    On a more serious note: you are spot on in this article about Wenger having build the defence of the invincibles on an amazing small budget. That makes the achievement even bigger!
    Surely the FFM’s will not like him for this.

  2. HAHAHahhaha, Kev.

    We have signed great defenders past few years. Also the youngsters signed, Chambers and Jenkinson looks very good. Great potential there. And some academy graduates look good defenders too. BUT that doesnt support media narrative that we are filled to the brim with midfielders. And our academy can produce only midfielder.

    Oh,…Now when Terry and Cahill are considered to be the best defenders in the world, no point arguing with them.

    Defending is a dying art. In the age of last ditch tackles and body on the line defending, we have the last of the real defenders in our ranks. Per Mertesacker. The torch bearer of this dying art. Hope he helps Chambers develop this art from.

  3. That is why people called Arsene Wenger the jenius and intellect one! He is simply more than a coach! I hate hearing Wenger answering back to morinho’s (the bully one) comments though i like the way Wenger responds. He is world class mind! i like this man!

  4. Interesting Article.
    Seriously, I am very much excited with the analysis being made during Kolo it’s time in Arsenal football. You would have go by saying uhm, this is crazy, but the nature of football. Off course, a manager like Arsene would really impressed someone with an intention of building a team. It’s not when you are investing much, that will show your quality, but building a team.

  5. that’s really cool on AW’s path. some managers would have sent the boy home. great incident to read. I was imagining AW’s face when he was taken out. must have been really hilarious to watch.

  6. Apo Armani,
    there seems to be a little problem with the automatic moderation of the site for the moment. And as I am alone in running the site for the moment I didn’t noticed it till I saw your comment in moderation. I hope the software does it job in the right way from now on.

  7. Good read.However,there is a point of correction, Lauren is not a Spaniard, he is a Cameroonian.

  8. Proud Kiev, you’ve narrated very well. It is a well known fact that the Boss is a great identifier and developer of talent. No one doubts that, even the FFM don’t doubt the Boss talent fishing and developing. They can only pretend not to recognize it. Now, I want to see the Boss move to the advance level this season by winning the Premier League and the UCL this season with the quality of the talents currently at his disposal. And I am positive those developed quality talents in the Boss’ squad can deliver the goods this season. In fact they can win the total fifthruple this season. And I also believe the Boss could add 1 or 2 necessary top quality talented additions to his squad during the January window. That’s bring to my mind the issue of striker Aleksandr Kokorin whose possible permanent deal transfer to Arsenal, I will want the Boss to revisit it during the winter window. I watched the video of his goalscoring exploits on B/R and I must say, I am convinced Kokorin 25 in his prime, can still be further developed by the Boss to become a top quality striker for Arsenal in no distant time if the Boss signed him on.

  9. The day Wenger finally calls time on his illustrious Arsenal management,Arsenal will never remain the same.Why? Because, Wenger is the soul of Arsenal.I might not support Arsenal any longer…and I’ll shed a tear.Even as I write now, I’ve got tears welled up my eyes.John Cross said what he saw yesterday at the AGM tells him Wenger will walk away in 2017.The thought alone is hard for me to bear.I know some would be glad to see his back…but in the end, he’ll be sorely missed.

  10. read the article about “specialist in getting the sack”, anyone knows what his new nick name given by the Chelsea players is?

  11. It look like Wenger is planning his retirement soon so let’s hope the WOBs disband and start supporting the team for the remaining seasons left under one of Arsenals greatest manager. Let’s hope the team can win him the league this season and UCL next season if he does leave when his contract end (hopefully he renew another 2-3 years).

    Anyone here listen to The Alan Brasil show? If so do you get the sense he doesn’t like AW? I know he loves Moanrinho by the way he suck up to him. I enjoy listening to the show but sometimes it’s just frustrating the way he talk about AW.

  12. Brilliant Kev, loved the Kolo story, have not heard that before.
    Wenger certainly understands defending, but …unlike some, defending is not everything in every game, his teams are challenged to play…and attack….and he picks defenders, and keepers that assist in this.
    will be very interesting to see our defensive stats at the end of the season. We have some seriously good players in this position, Kos is surely one of the cleverest defenders going, not only brilliant, but walks the tight rope imposed by the pgmol, who as we can all see, at times, will try anything to stop this team. I know it all went horribly wrong, but in the recent game, Kos had Costa in his pocket. And I am quite sure he was letting the Chelsea player know it, until Mike Dean intervened to save the PGMOLs club of choice.

  13. A fantastic contribution, Proud Kev. I laughed out loud with the Kolo narrative. The man tried too hard and the kind hearted old man didn’t make it count against him…
    In addition to the story, I have always enjoyed how, especially in the seasons when we were experiencing high turnover of players, especially strikers, Wenger always managed to get his players banging in the goals….somehow, a new, hither to unheralded player always turned up just in time, to fill the void.

    From: Wright to Anelka to Henry to Adebayo (and Lord Bendtner), to Van Persie to Giroud to Sanchez even as Walcott is also threatening to own the No.9 shirt…

    What makes this a clear evidence of Wenger’s genius is that hardly were the new recruits “world class” strikers or even strikers at all before they come upon their rich vein of form under Wenger’s tutelage…fans were always in a state panic or moderate concern (subject whether the fan is an AAA or an AKB) that he had not explicitly addressed the striker void until his solution comes to fore and the team is always re-adjusted to play to the strengths of the new newly designated striker.

    It takes genius to do this again and again and again, without moaning to the press about having no strikers or needing to buy a £40 million striker for the team to score goals; and more often than not, at the end of the season, Arsenal always manages to be among the top three goal scoring teams in the Premiership.

  14. I´ll add my voice to the chorus of kudos and thanks, Proud Kev. This was both insightful and entertaining, much like the Touré story (which is just an amazing anecdote), and also integrated salient facts and figures about the difficulty in building a team, or defence in this case. There have been a lot of managers who have had success in many distinct ways, but I daresay there are exceedingly few who could have thrived using the Wenger method amidst such constraints as those that surround the Premier League. He truly is a class unto himself.

  15. Thanks for the kind comments.

    When I first heard the Kolo Toure story I was in stitches, Ray Parlour describes it so well.

    On a serious note, I had seen yet another WOB discrediting Wengers achievements on the basis of the back four/five he inherited, so I put pen to paper. The same back four that had finished 12th. The building of the Invincibles on a relatively small budget is rarely mentioned. Bear in mind our top golascorer was converted from a winger. So it was a remarkable achievement.

  16. The aaa ammunition is from the days when we didn’t have any money but we had 2 young Swiss center-backs that had loads of potential. Unfortunately Big Phil never reached the heights expected and JD only reached them occasionally and the unforgiving Wenger Stadium crowd got on their cases and broke their confidence. Some experience was called for but without money we ended up with a fringe international that had done very well on the continent but couldn’t play the high energy game of the PL, the squid wasn’t given long enough to get up to speed before the crowd jumped on him as well.
    There are a few PL teams with poor CB pairings but their crowd cheer them on so they play to the best of their poor ability, whilst others have decent pairings but their poor support means they play well below their true level.
    Hopefully the Wenger Stadium crowd will support out team rather than break them.

  17. Polo,

    I do hope not (Wenger retiting soon). The only place where I could find such story is an article on Faux Sports, and that one is only distorting what Wenger says to suit their agenda. I agree these ppl can be very shrewd, but don’t let yourself fooled. They are only animated by their hate of Wenger, born out of envy, because he dared to challenge the old outdated ways and showed them for what they are – “Porcus ex grege diaboli” – thanks Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

  18. @ Florian. I hope it’s just noise and AW not planning to leave. I was listening to Talksports yesterday and John Cross was saying he initially thought AW would sign another contract and then retire but at the AGM he said by the tone and the way AW talk about his future he believe AW won’t sign another contract.

  19. @ ProudKev. Great article, you can listen to Kolo trial story on YouTube, how Ray Parlour tell the story is so funny.

    Yesterday reading the commentary on the AGM, there was an incident where a member of the AST was being rude to the Board, he was showing outrage and moaning about the UCL performances. If as the commentary suggest on his behavior, well I hope he’s satisfied with his 15 seconds of fame. That guy need to remember he was at an adult meeting and he should behave more civilized.

  20. Polo,

    I wouldn’t put much value on that opinion. Until someone does a brain scan on Arsene to certify that he uses that tone when he is thinking about not signing a new contract I would take it as cheap gossip. All joke aside, I can’t see any palpable evidence that Arsene is thinking about leaving.

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