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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 1 day ago
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By ESPN Staff
Aug 16, 2006

Toure confident of catching Chelsea

Arsenal defender Kolo Toure is confident Arsene Wenger's young Gunners will be a force to be reckoned with next season.

Following the departure of Sol Campbell during the summer, Toure is now the senior man at the heart of the Arsenal backline.

However, with the likes of Philippe Senderos, Swiss youngster Johan Djourou and Pascal Cygan all vying for a place alongside him, Toure feels a youthful defence can complement the rest of Wenger's emerging side as they prepare for the start of the new Barclays Premiership campaign this weekend.

'I am definitely the old man in this team,' the 25-year-old said. 'But we have a big squad and the younger players are doing very well.

'The best thing for Arsenal is that we do not only have one player, we have a lot of players who are improving, and we saw that in the World Cup.

'We have a lot of players who are more mature now.

'When you see the run [we had] in the Champions League, you can see that if we are really, really focused on the Premiership, then we can do it.

'We can catch Chelsea - we have the squad and ambition.'

After a slow start as the team struggled to adapt to life without Patrick Vieira, Wenger's blend of experience and talented youth produced a string of consistent results at home and in Europe to finish the campaign in some style, clinching fourth place and reaching the Champions League final.

However, everyone at the north London club is all too aware of the importance of becoming genuine title challengers again.

'We have to do better this season,' said Toure.

'The fact that we went so far in the Champions League helped us to be better in the Premiership.

'Now we have another season, so we need to be really strong in the Premiership and to see if we can repeat things in the Champions League.'

Arsenal have so far only made one major signing this summer, with the arrival of Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky confirmed before the World Cup.

A reported big-money move for West Brom defender Curtis Davies has yet to materialise, but Toure believes the work ethic of the current group of players is strong heading into the new campaign.

'The team is built on solid, basic players,' Toure added.

'The most important thing is to play with the players we have and then integrating the players who come in will be easier and quicker.

'This season we will be more focused on all the competitions as we are more mature and we are used to playing together.

'That will help us to cope with anything and everything the other team tries to do against us.'

Toure, though, is not expecting an easy ride for the Gunners as they start life at the impressive Emirates Stadium.

He said: 'The difference with English football is that every team wants to win, they are not scared.

'They do not think it is Arsenal or Manchester United, they just come here to play and win.

'When you go for a fight you really need to go for it. You cannot go in thinking you will lose. That is what the Premiership teams do.'

The future of full-back Ashley Cole, currently away on international duty with England, remains uncertain.

It had appeared the 25-year-old was on the verge of a switch to Premiership champions Chelsea, only for talks to grind to a halt after a dispute over the size of the transfer fee.

Cole was conspicuous by his absence from the official team photo last week, and his controversial new book is set to be launched in a fortnight's time - a publication which has brought him into conflict with his employers over criticism following the `tapping-up' saga last season.

With the deadline for deals to be completed before the transfer window closes at the end of the month fast approaching, time is running out for Cole's future to be resolved.

Jose Antonio Reyes, meanwhile, could be another player on his way out of Arsenal, with Real Madrid keen to take the winger back to Spain.

Despite the uncertainty over the two men, Toure insists the rest of the squad have already shown that life does go on after securing a 3-0 win in their Champions League qualifier against Dinamo Zagreb last week - without either player being involved.

He added: 'Everyone has his own problems and reasons, so I cannot say much.

'The only thing I know is that we still have some good players in the team and we work on it well.

'The most important thing is to get some results. We did that in Zagreb. That gave us big hope because we have good players in our team.'