Where has 2006 gone?

Last updated : 03 September 2006 By Kevin Archer

I can't imagine that I have ever looked at calendar with such a mixture of anger and relief. But it has nothing to do with Toure.

For, with the kind of irony that only football can dish up with such regularity, welcoming in Mr September allows me to bid a not so fond farewell to Mr August, on the day he finally leaves Arsenal…

Ashley Cole. It's hard not to rant and rave about a player that promised so much and proved to be such a disappointment. And it's impossible not to join the countless Arsenal supporters who have already voiced their disbelief that he blames the club – and not himself – for ending up in hot water with the FA.

But hey, he's gone, and I'm glad to hear it.

My only regret is that he had the cheek to step into Flamini's boots for the Champions League final, knowing that he was going to kick Arsenal squarely in the cods at the very next opportunity.

Let's forget Cole. Except, of course, to address the inevitable question: does his departure weaken the team?

Thumbing through the calendar once again, it's astonishing how many of the featured players no longer wear Arsenal colours.

Campbell, Cygan, Pires, Smith, Bergkamp, Owusu-Abeyie, Lupoli and Reyes have all joined Cole under the exit sign, for one reason or another. That's all of March, April and August gone, along with half of May, June and December.

So this question extends way beyond poor, little, mistreated Ashley.

Can any team absorb such a change in personnel (not to mention the challenges of a new and very different stadium) without stuttering? Once again, the phrase ‘transitional season' rears its ugly head.

But wait a minute… William Gallas and Julio Baptista will be wearing Arsenal shirts at the end of the year, and Denilson is likely to join them.

Gallas and Baptista will bring copious amounts of the one quality that has been lacking (despite all Toure's efforts) since Vieira's departure: pure physical presence.

Imagine a team built around Lehmann, Gallas, Toure, Baptista, Gilberto, Fabregas and Henry.

Are you still concerned about Cole leaving? Or do you have a smile on your face – the kind of smile that could hardly have been anticipated on 31st August, when the transfer window threatened to close on a depleted Arsenal squad?

Oh, and let's not forget Denilson. He is captain of the Brazil U-19 team, so I'm guessing he knows how to kick a ball.

Look at that calendar one last time and I'll tell you what's really surprising.

It's not that Cole and Co. have robbed us of a large part of 2006, but that Arsène Wenger only appears as an end-of-year afterthought, perched over the shoulder of… Reyes.

Despite having change forced upon him, and his hands tied financially, Wenger has (for the umpteenth time) made the best of a bad deal. And then some.

To recap: money spent, £7m. Money received, £7m. Out: two whinging want-aways. In: two players with backbone.

Friday 1st September 2006. Not such a bad day after all.

Would it be wrong to suggest that Arsène Wenger be moved to the front of the calendar in 2007?