Kolo Toure pulls back the curtain to reveal what made the Invincibles special

If you’re like me, you don’t have time for podcasts. But today I did have time to listen to The Arsenal Weekly Podcast and cobble together something of a transcript. It’s not complete and probably not 100% accurate (he says “you know” about a billion times) but I was pretty careful not to take too much license or to “fix” his English too much. It’s quite an enjoyable listen and as always the link is at the bottom of the page. For those who don’t have 20 minutes, here are the best bits.

On his tryout…

To be honest Mr. Wenger knew a little bit about the guy who was running the academy in Ivory Coast. Players like Patrick Vieira had donated his shirts to his academy and we would hold a drawing to see who won the shirts. Because our manager knew Arsene Wenger we would think “maybe one day one of us would go to Arsenal”. I was really lucky to be the first one who tried out for Arsenal and when I came for my tryout it was quite a special experience for me because I never thought I would try out for such a special club. So, I was really enthusiastic.

On the language barriers…

I was really lucky that in the club we had players like Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, those guys who were speaking French fluently, that helped me a lot. I also used to have like a teacher, she was, I was learning English straight away when I get there. Because when you get there you have to speak the language because that is really really important. Otherwise to adapt to all the players was going to be really difficult.

On help from his teammates…

I was really lucky. The first time I came, you know, I see that players around me were nice to me. I never saw any of them, just negative. They were always all positive. And straight away they just start helping me. That was amazing for me to join a club like that you just think, you think maybe there are big egos, that if you make one bad pass they kill you straight away. You saw positive people who would give you advice, encourage you when you make a mistake. That was really important for me and that’s what I try to do now with young players; try to help them, try to encourage them, to push them doing their best. That was key for me.

On his fellow center backs and specifically his partnership with Sol Campbell…

I was around experienced players and I was one of the youngest ones, with Ashley Cole of course, and to be around they they help you, they support you for me that was amazing. The good thing I think for me was that I wanted to listen, I was able to take any feedback they give me. And I was 100% physically all the time – tried to have a fantastic life, focus on my game, and focused on the football, focused on, for the club, giving everything. But the support alone was massive. A guy like Martin Keown didn’t play a lot, you know, I was taking his position but he was always supporting me. Sol Campbell, fantastic guy, really strong in the air, and for me I had just to be focused and just try to cover every ball around that fell to the floor. And the combo was really good, you know, Sol Campbell was really great in the air and I was really fast on the ground, getting every ball around him, you know, and it was good you know.

On training sessions with the fellow Invincibles…

One thing hit me, really, when I was there (at Arsenal). Training was harder than games! Because we was able to have two teams at training we were competitive and the intensity of the training was so high. It was like really really difficult training and when we get to the day of the game you know because you worked so hard at training and you play against top players at training when you get in the games, you play against top players as well but you’re able to be more relaxed because at training you’ve been working so hard against players who don’t start really but give you 100%, they put you in difficult situations in training. It was fantastic there.

On the title win at Tottenham…

It was a tough game. It was a draw at the end. We was playing better than them and we should have won the game but we didn’t. It was at the end of the game we wasn’t really happy with the performance that we did but we knew that we were champions and that showed the mentality of the team. It was not great. We were not happy. Then suddenly we saw Thierry Henry start celebrating and everybody just start celebrating. It was special winning at White Hart Lane because Arsenal-Tottenham really tough games all the time but we were so dominant you know. We were such a strong team.

On Patrick Vieira…

He was a top captain. You know. He was a leader. He was leading by example. But at the same time he was a man, he was a simple man, a simple person. He used to help everybody on the pitch. Talking to everybody. Giving responsibility. I remember him coming to me all the time. I was young. He was saying “Kolo, you know, we count on you, you are really important and when you’re playing, even if you have to shout at ME you can do it.” Look at me! I was like What are you talking about? I can’t tell you anything, you’re Patrick Vieira. But that shows how the guy wanted to win. It was no matter of age or anything. He wanted the team to play for him. He was one of the greatest captains I played with definitely.

On the 2005 FA Cup Final…

We didn’t do well. We were really lucky to win this cup to be honest because United played much better than us. But at the end of the day the fighting spirit and the mentality won it at the end, with Patrick on the penalty. And to see him go and score, that was big emotion for us definitely.

On his goal against Villarreal 16 April 2006… 

It was a tough game. That was the only goal I scored in that whole season. But that goal means a lot for me because that was the first time for the Arsenal to go into the Champions League Final and I will always remember that. I saw, I think, Thierry Henry (editor’s note: it was Hleb) on the side cross the ball and I just, it was an easy goal to be honest.

On Arsenal’s record Champions League defense…

It was teamwork. You know, for me a good defense is not only the back four, the four defenders, it’s everybody in the team. All the team was willing to work hard, when we had the ball and when we didn’t have the ball. That’s why we were so strong. To play against Real Madrid, to play against Juventus, to play against, even Barcelona in the final, even though we didn’t win the game, but we defended very well as well, still though it was one man down, and the fighting spirit, the mentality of the team was so strong. We had to work together. We was brothers on the pitch. We had to attack and defend together.

On Bergkamp…

For me he was the best player I played with. Dennis Bergkamp is not about only the games… he’s a man. He’s a top man. You respect him in all aspects. Sometimes when he was not in the squad but to see him train with the players who were not in the first team on the day of the game – because when you aren’t going to play in the game, you have to train in the morning with the other players who are not selected – he was the best player in training. Because he was focused, he was working hard, he was showing an example to the young players. And for me, I respect that more. You have players who when they don’t play games they are not professional, they don’t work hard. But Dennis does it. And that’s where you see top players and I learned that from him. For me that’s why he will always be the top player because he’s a fantastic player but as well he’s a fantastic example, he’s a fantastic man.

Tim’s note: these interviews with the Invincibles and with other great players always make me wonder about the current squad. Are they all 100% supportive like Henry and Vieira? Are they training like Bergkamp? Do they lead like Patrick? Do they play defense like brothers? Are the mini-teams complimentary like Sol and Kolo? We don’t know. We are only left to guess. But I love when like Kolo Toure , players who literally won it all, pull back the curtain and reveal what made their team great.


Listen to the whole interview at Arsenal.com: https://www.arsenal.com/news/training-was-harder-games



  1. Great stuff. Makes me nostalgic for a different time, a different generation of players. I contrast that with Ozil’s almost daily posts of him working out and I can’t see past it as anything other than PR.

  2. Ozil is a great, great talent no question. And when he shows it we are mesmerized. Unfortunately he’s also a Goldilocks (everything has to be just so) and a bit of a poser when he doesn’t need to be. It’s a shame.

  3. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to say this, but I really like the new layout / design of the site.

  4. When I first saw Kolo play, I really thought he wouldn’t work as a partner for Sol because he had a bit of hesitation in his play. It’s like he was nervous or didn’t believe in his abilities. Its great that the senior players embraced him as he really got out of his shell as time went on.

    We really miss these types of characters to be honest more than the actual abilities.

    1. they did that with everyone. that’s leadership and it’s why arsenal were so successful back then. anytime a youngster came in, even if only for one game, they supported the youngsters on the pitch until they relaxed and played their natural game. it’s leadership that the senior players provided and something that wenger could never do as a manager. it was, in my opinion, wenger’s biggest oversight when he dismantled the invincibles. it’s also my biggest gripe with making multiple changes for tough games.

  5. i heard this the other day. i think it was on the arsenal website. great to hear kolo toure sound so excited to tell his story. the senior guys set the tone and the young bucks fell in line or got dealt with. when you’re playing with such great champions and you see their effort in training, why wouldn’t one fall in line? that was a true team. i was so proud to be a gooner.

    i’ve always believed this was wenger’s biggest mistake. he inherited a team that had a firmly established hierarchy in the dressing room. tony adams was captain and that entire dressing room supported him, meaning everyone else fell in line. patrick vieira’s ascent to captain was natural. however, when wenger dismantled the invincibles, he also dismantled the command that was established in the dressing room. that era ended when vieira scored that final spot kick against man united.

    i simply don’t think wenger gave enough reverence and respect for his subordinate leadership. kolo toure hardly mentioned arsene wenger in this interview but if you’re honest, it’s natural in most any job. who do you learn more from, the boss or your peers? wenger endeavored to micro-manage everything. it’s too much and it was a mistake. arsenal can never get that back. if arsenal ever win a title, it will be something special. we’ll see.

  6. With your last pic, are you hinting to us to take what Kolo said with a pinch of salt? Or is there some irony in it? Great pic, lol. I mean who dares to believe everything he says after that car salesman stunt.

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