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It’s 27th October 2004. A young defender with Djourou on the back of his shirt comes on to the Highbury pitch. Questions are asked: Who? How do I pronounce that? Nationality? Where’s he from? The Swiss player puts in a solid defensive performance.
On 14th January 2006, over a year since his League Cup appearance, Djourou starts his first league game against Middlesbrough alongside also-Swiss centre-back Phillipe Senderos. Arsenal won the match 7-0, an impressive League debut for Johan Djourou. He played a part in a further 6 Premier League games that season. Juventus scouted Johan with his contract expiring that summer, but following the conclusion of the World Cup, Djourou signed a six-year contract extension at Arsenal.
On 10th August, Arsenal loaned Johan to Birmingham City for five months as well as Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner. Two days after he played his first game, losing 3-2 to Chelsea but kept his side in the game by clearing Lampard’s shot off the line. Djourou continued to play regularly and McLeish was keen to keep him, but Wenger chose to keep him at Arsenal as Kolo Toure and Alex Song were heading to the African Cup of Nations.
Moving on to season 08/09, Djourou said he’d be willing to play in midfield following Flamini’s departure for AC Milan. Senderos was also loaned to AC Milan therefore Djourou became first choice back up centre-back.
The following season, Djourou was set to become first choice defender as Kolo Toure transferred to Manchester City, but a knee injury saw Johan sidelined for 6-8 months. He made his comeback against, Fulham, the final match of the season, replacing Mikaël Silvestre. This was Djourou’s only involvement that season.
An injury to Thomas Vermaelan at the start of his Arsenal career gave Johan Djourou a starting place, which he retained for the entire season. He played in all of Arsenal’s 8 January games conceding a total of 0 goals! He scored his first Arsenal goal against Newcastle in the thrilling 4-4 draw, a day to forget for Arsenal fans. Likewise, Djourou partnered Laurent Koscielny in the League Cup final where a blunder from his centre-back partner cost his team the trophy, and Birmingham went on to win the match.
On 12th March, an FA Cup quarter-final vs Manchester United, Djourou sustained an injury that ruled him out for a match, disappointing for Arsenal who hadn’t lost a league game with him on the pitch. He finished the season having played 37 games.
2011/12 saw Djourou become 4th choice defender behind Vermaelan, Koscielny and Mertesacker. Despite this, Johan did play 19 times, although many of those appearances were at right-back as Sagna and Jenkinson were both injured for 2 months, a position unfamiliar to him.
This season, he hasn’t played a single game for Arsenal. Wenger decided to loan Djourou, Hannover were his favoured side and joined them on 5th January 2013.
You have to feel for Johan Djourou, been at this club since a teenager (2002), and his most successful season saw Arsenal reach the final, who never lost a league game with him playing. However injury prevented his progress and his game time, which eventually cost his place in the team.
Although leaving on loan, I do believe Djourou could yet have a future at Arsenal. If he can put a run of successful performances at Hannover, first-team for Arsenal next season is possible. Many Arsenal fans aren’t Djourou’s biggest supporters but I am a fan.
Good luck to Johan Djourou on loan at Hannover 96.
Written by Cain O’Bennett
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