Toure and Gallas on same wavelength again


KOLO TOURE called it his most embarrassing moment on a football pitch. The Arsenal centre-half and his partner William Gallas resembled a couple of Keystone Kops on Tuesday night when they scuttled out of the dressingroom and down the tunnel to make a late entrance for the second half of the Champions League tie against Roma.

Toure had waited for Gallas to finish some treatment because personal superstition dictates he must be the last Arsenal player to re-emerge, and he realised how finely the pair had cut it only when he saw that play had begun without them. He compounded the farcical situation by bounding on to the pitch without the referee’s permission, and was booked.

“The good thing is that I have learnt a new rule,” he said somewhat sheepishly after the 1-0 win at Emirates Stadium. “William was adjusting his boots [on the touchline] so maybe that’s what saved him [from a booking]. But it’s good I’m the only one that got booked. If it’s the both of us, I’m thinking that could be a problem.”

Both of them have been a problem for Arsenal in the recent past and the very notion of Toure waiting around for Gallas at half-time, of this rather odd couple sticking together in such a fashion, would have been fanciful after their clash during the 2-2 Premier League draw at Aston Villa on St Stephen’s Day. That kicked off at half-time and Toure was so disillusioned in the wake of it, and with the way things were going for him in a defensive pool where Gallas is the dominant personality, that he handed in a transfer request. Toure was aware of strong interest in him from Manchester City and he looked set to complete a January switch to Eastlands.

But he does not want to talk about that now. “Everything is finished with regard to that, it’s in the past. I love Arsenal, it’s the club of my heart. I’m delighted to be at the club at the moment, playing every week and helping the team win games.”

His renaissance alongside Gallas cannot be dismissed as lightly. The manager, Arsene Wenger, did not play the pair together in the six fixtures that followed the Villa game, with Johan Djourou starting in five of them and Mikael Silvestre one, alongside Toure or Gallas. The Toure-Gallas partnership had for some months been a source of concern, with Toure not at the top of his form and the more volatile Gallas infamously criticising his team-mates, for which he was stripped of the captaincy in mid-November.

Yet since Wenger reunited them against West Ham United in the Premier League at the end of last month, they have not looked back or even conceded a goal. The clean sheet they oversaw against Roma was their fifth in succession. With Toure wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of the injured Cesc Fabregas, there is the sense the Ivorian, who is the club’s longest-serving player, has come full circle. The defensive conviction which characterised the team’s run to the 2006 Champions League final, when they kept a record 10 consecutive clean sheets, is also back.

“I definitely feel we can go to Rome and get the clean sheet we need,” said Toure. “We know we defend really well as a team. William and I, we are used to playing together. Last season, we lost only three or four games together. We know each other really well and we are quite happy to play together, definitely.”

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