By Avenell Dave
Kolo Toure has come to embody what it means to be an Arsenal player.
A flamboyant centre back who at one time or another, especially in his early days, has played in every possible position for the Gunners except goalkeeper, he is the longest- serving outfield player.
Who can fail to get excited by his marauding runs forward and ambitious shots on goal?
Who can forget some of the superb tackles that have defied belief and denied an opposition goal?
It is important at any club to retain long-standing players until others come to embody the very essence of the club.
There is a fear now that with so many new young faces, so few local boys, the team is losing its heritage, its N5 personality...
I've never been against foreign players -quite the opposite - but I do wonder how Toure's possible departure will affect the Club.
Arsene Wenger is renowned for moving players on when he feels they are on a downward curve, the peak of their career over.
But that has haunted him somewhat, with the likes of Patrick Vieira, Bobby Pires and Thierry Henry showing they still had what it takes to win trophies or play a significant role in their new club's success.
Yes, I know, you can argue the fitness fears about Paddy and Bobby and even Titi, plus the need for a fresh challenge or domestic reasons.
In Toure's case, the player who left us for the African Cup of Nations in January 2008 is not the same one who returned a month later and it could be argued that he has never fully returned to top form.
You could argue that a dose of malaria impacted his performance levels, although there are differing views on how long the after-effects - if any - actually last.
Has Toure got frustrated or stale? Has he failed to overcome his falling-out with William Gallas and decided he wants out?
Has his failure to be awarded the captaincy, especially after Gallas's demotion, proved to be a snub too far?
Kolo Toure's departure, particularly to Man Citeh, who must now be considered as real rivals, seems ill-advised in the extreme.
With one year to go on his contract, Wenger should be building his defence around Toure.
Sure, Gallas was our best defender last season until he got injured and doesn't have the ACN to worry about.
But he too has only a year left on his contract, he's already proved to be a disruptive influence by criticising his colleagues in public. And he's 32 in a fortnight, four years older that Toure.
As it is, with Thomas Vermaelen's arrival, we have too many defenders. Alex Song and Johann Djourou can also lay claim to a starting role.
But Kolo is as close as we get to Mr Arsenal at the moment and selling him to one of our rivals seems curious, unless we have a giant like Brede Hangelaand lined up, which I doubt.
Stay with us, Kolo. You're more than just another member of the squad.
By Avenell Dave