Toure’s sale marks Arsenal tactical change

There has been a considerable amount of discontent among Arsenal fans for the club’s lack of transfer activity this close season.

They have seen one player in the form of Thomas Vermaelen come in, while Emmanuel Adebayor completed his big-money move to Manchester City.

Now, it’s the turn of a long-serving servant of the Club to make his move to the north of England.

Kolo Toure has been a magnificent player for the best part of the nine years that he’s spent at Arsenal. While Adebayor’s move was related to his attitude, Toure’s move may signal a tactical change at the club.

Many experts and fans complained for two seasons that William Gallas and Toure at the center of defense were too similar. Neither of them took charge, and both were relatively weak in the air, but both had pace and were experienced. The only imposing figure in defence, in the form of Philippe Senderos, didn’t quite make the cut to the first team.

Arsene Wenger likes his teams to play football along the ground. How many times has one seen him lose his cool when Arsenal has lost a game due to a “soft-center” or a “long ball” from the opponents?

He had to change his tactics to match the style of play in the English Premier League. There had to be different types of players for different situations — especially in defense, where Arsenal seemed very one-dimensional.

The choice for Wenger this summer was quite clear: Keep hold of his players, sign one or two players, and improve the squad — or move certain players on to bring some fresh new faces into the club.

Clearly, he seems to have picked the latter option.

Toure’s departure may herald an era of tactical flexibility on Arsenal’s part, defensively. Arsenal generally play a high line in defense, therefore any ball over the top may easily result in the opponent gaining an advantage due to the positioning of Arsenal’s defensive line.

Many a time, one might have seen Arsenal getting caught on the break or getting undone by a pass that most defenses would cope with.

Wenger seemingly wants to change this particular strategy for the next season.

He had a simple choice to make in this regard — sell Toure or Gallas. Due to the former’s African Nations Cup commitments, added to his well-documented problems at the club earlier this year and a good transfer fee from Manchester City for his services, the choice was quite easy to make for the manager.

Vermaelen, who looks set to partner Gallas in a new-look defense, may lack pace and height, but he makes up for that with good positioning and a big leap. Many discussed his height being a negative, but recent friendlies show that he’s quite strong aerially.

Added to that, Vermaelen is an organizer. Toure and Gallas had their best years when they played next to a Sol Campbell or a John Terry, but together, they seemed to get in each other’s way. Arsenal’s capitulation two seasons ago against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, after being 1-0 up to end up losing the game 2-1, is proof of this.

Wenger must have believed last season that a Spain-like Arsenal, with players who are quick and mobile with a low center of gravity, was the way forward. But he must have discovered that international games and the Premier League are entirely different.

Arsenal will now be able to have some flexibility when it comes to tactics, as there are different types of defenders available, with possible future arrivals to add more versatility at the back.

The manager has already hinted that he will be using tactics that vary according to situations, with 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 being touted as replacements to the existing 4-4-2 formation.

The situation at Arsenal is quite ironic because a section of the fans demanded a clearout at the beginning of the year when the team seemed to be going nowhere. Now, when that clearout seems to be taking place (and is not yet over in terms of replacements being acquired), they seem to be questioning Wenger’s ambitions for the season to come.

Arsenal will now have 40 million pounds to spend regardless of what anyone says. Wenger has always maintained that the money made from sales will be available to him for any future acquisitions.

Rest assured, Wenger knows what he’s doing at the Emirates. Hopefully for him and Arsenal, the changes he’s trying to bring at the club will bear fruit in the near future.

Shyam Parthasarathi is a senior writer for Bleacher Report, the open source sports network.