'Wenger turns average players into world's best'
Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30
As one of Arsenal's 'invincibles' Kolo Toure thought Arsenal would dominate the Premier League for a generation.
Twelve years on, with his former club tipped to finally end their title drought, the Liverpool centre-back is in as to no doubt why the success has not been replicated. "The new stadium," he says.
"I am not inside any more but there has been a lot of change. A lot players left the club, guys like Patrick Vieira, leaders left the club and it was quite difficult but this policy started when they started the new stadium.
"Everything changed. They needed to sell some players, cut the wage bill and that is all about it. I think they lost so many experienced players.
"Patrick Vieira was a leader, Robert Pires was a top player, Thierry Henry left. . . and sometimes you need experience at the club and then a young player can learn, that is one of the things."
For Toure, part of Wenger's genius has been keeping the club competitive while paying off those stadium debts.
"Wenger is a top manager, he has shown that unbelievably," Toure said.
"The thing I like is this manager can make an average player one of the best players in the world. He did that with so many players. George Weah. . . Patrick Vieira was in Milan not playing a lot, Thierry Henry was at Juventus and he brought him here and made him one of the best players in the world.
"He did that with so many players, he made a lot of players into top players.
"He is a fantastic manager. He did that with me because I started from nowhere. He took me to the next level and I always respect him for that."
This could be the season that Arsenal end their wait for the title, with their visit to Anfield tonight a key test of whether they have matured from perennial pretenders to likely champions.
History preaches caution. Two years ago Wenger took his side to Liverpool as league leaders and they were dismantled 5-1. The trajectory of both clubs since could not be more different. Tonight Liverpool have only three survivors available from the starting line-up for that victory.
Toure, recalled because of injuries, is one of them and in another drastic Anfield reshuffle he may find himself alongside emergency loanee Steven Caulker, who signed only yesterday afternoon just ahead of the Premier League deadline which makes him eligible to play tonight.
Jurgen Klopp says QPR's Caulker, who was out on loan at Southampton, represents a "good solution" to a crippling injury crisis, with the 24-year-old moving to Anfield until the end of the season.
"It was very important" Klopp said. "We looked for Premier League experience. We looked for a good header of the ball because that's what we need. We've found it with Steven Caulker."
Caulker, who began his career at Tottenham and was a target for former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, ironically has not played for Southampton (where he was on loan from QPR) since Liverpool's 6-1 League Cup demolition of the Saints last month. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Liverpool v Arsenal,
Live, BT Sport, 8.0