Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Feared Being Trapped at Arsenal after 8-2 Rout; as Armand Traore Prepares to Face United for the First Time since That Mauling, the Defender Reveals Why He Should Never Have Played and His Debt to Neil Warnock; EXCLUSIVE

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Feared Being Trapped at Arsenal after 8-2 Rout; as Armand Traore Prepares to Face United for the First Time since That Mauling, the Defender Reveals Why He Should Never Have Played and His Debt to Neil Warnock; EXCLUSIVE

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Johnson Football Correspondent

A RMAND TRAORE trudged off the pitch the last time he faced Manchester United fearing his dream move to Queens Park Rangers was going to collapse.

Traore had just taken part in one of the darkest days in Arsenal's history as they were humiliated 8-2 at Old Trafford.

The match took place just before the transfer window shut in August but the Senegal international would have already moved to Loftus Road if it hadn't been for a catalogue of injuries robbing Arsene Wenger of several senior players.

Traore was used to playing a bit-part role at Emirates Stadium, only being called upon when others weren't fit. It was the main reason why the left-back was desperate to leave Arsenal and he was delighted when Neil Warnock made a determined effort to sign him. Traore felt wanted for the first time in his career but he had this one last task to fulfil before being set free and it couldn't have gone worse.

He was singled out for criticism by pundits and Arsenal fans, yet his main concern was whether the QPR he manager was going to pull out of the transfer.

Traore told Standard Sport: "I thought that game had cost me my move. I was thinking 'nightmare, I am going to stay at Arsenal'.

"But my agent spoke to Warnock after the match and he didn't expect me to play anyway and said the deal was still on.

"I was really happy he still wanted me. I still wondered what he was thinking and what the QPR fans would think of me joining them after that but everyone at the club has been great with me.

"I know people think all those Arsenal players were rubbish that day but, personally, I wasn't there in my head. I was all set to join QPR on the Thursday and then Arsenal said I had to play this game first.

"The fact is I wasn't fit. I remember after the first few minutes I went to close someone down and bang, I felt my groin. I tried to play on and at halftime I said to the physio I didn't think I could play on but they told me I had to. It was a nightmare.

"A lot of Arsenal fans probably hate me and some of the other players. They probably always will because of that game. But we were just a bunch of reserves and players with little confidence taking on a team still on a high from what they'd done last season."

One would expect Traore, who made just 13 League appearances for Arsenal in six years, to be psychologically scarred as he faces up to playing United again for his new club on Sunday.

However, nothing could be further from the truth and the main reason is his bond with Warnock.

He said: "I have a closer relationship with him than I ever did with Arsene Wenger. He is more approachable and I speak a lot to him.

"For the first time I actually feel like I've found somewhere I can settle down and build a career. I didn't really make it at Arsenal.

"When I was 17 I started playing for the first team. Everything was good, but then things started to go down, I had a few bad performances and it hurt my confidence. I would only play if people were injured and found myself having to wait three months between games. I never got to build a rhythm.

"Now I'm at QPR, I play freely. The confidence is coming back and I feel better and better every day. I definitely feel more comfortable as a defender. The manager has helped me a lot, he tells me where to be positioning wise. …

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