Monthly Archives: May 2012

Johan Djourou: His Life, His Times and His Future

and he showed so much promise last season

Bereft in confidence, shaky, clumsy, timid, pain to watch, “deadwood”.

These are the words uttered from a faction of the Arsenal faithful when describing the club’s current fourth choice defender, Johan Danon Djourou-Gbajere, or simply Johan Djourou, as he’s known in the shores of Britain.

The road in Djourou’s path didn’t lead to such a bad and rough avenue initially, as he was one of those “young Guns” that was tipped for great things in the yesteryear but he had one hell of a worrisome knee, weak ankles, bad thighs, you name it.

He made his debut appearance in the club’s final season at Highbury and he had a decent run-out in the inaugural campaign at the Emirates. This was followed closely by a loan spell in Birmingham City that turned out to be a success story.

He featured spariangly in subsequent campaigns but Kolo Toure’s exit to Manchester City paved the way Djourou yet again, that amassed a total haul of 29 appearances before sustaining a knee injury in April 2009, which required a surgery, putting him on the sidelines for the best part of one year.

After recuperating from the long lay-off, Thomas Vermaelen took his place in the treatment table with an Achilles tendon injury, and his breakthrough arrived. Alongside Laurent Koscielny, Djourou forged a telepathic understanding as well as creating a catchy nickname, Djourcielny.

He oozed confidence and consistency, giving Arsene Wenger a chance to give himself a pat in the back, declaring that he ‘kept the faith’. On February 2011, in a game against Newcastle in St. James Park, Djourou opened his Arsenal goalscoring account and suffered a shoulder injury. The right-footed version of Mikael Silvestre, Sebastien Squillaci, came in his stead and Arsenal’s defense capitulated in grand style.

Prior to his injury, Arsenal had surprisingly failed to lose any Premier League game Johan Djourou had played since 2008 or so, a record that shocked me and many Gooners out there. With Vermaelen still out for all eternity and Koscielny having the fitness levels of an Ox, Squillaci did his bit to hold the fort and Djourou made a comeback only to get injured again by Bacary Sagna in a FA Cup quarterfinal game against Manchester United.

Arsene Wenger declared that he was out for the entire campaign after a successful re-constructive surgery on the same shoulder that received a blow against Newcastle a month earlier. At that point in time, Djourou was a cult hero in his own realm, as the Gooners sent him goodwill messages and thanked him for his surprising yet positive input to the team’s cause that season.

In somewhat mysterious circumstances, Djourou made a swift return after one month in the extremely disappointing 1-1 draw against Liverpool, where Arsenal failed to hold the lead despite being ahead in the 97th minute. It wasn’t really surprising because the same Arsenal failed to hold onto a four-goal lead in the same season.

Djourou’s return came with the good, the bad and the ugly with his game against Stoke (3-1 loss) standing out as one he’ll want to forget quickly as he was more or less involved in all three goals conceded. However, the 2010-11 season was a great campaign by his standards and he earned a second place finish in the Most Improved Player section of my 2010/11 Season Awards.

This concluded season, Thomas Vermaelen returned to full fitness, Laurent Koscielny upped his game and Arsene Wenger bought ze Big F*ckin German machine, Per Mertesacker, thereby sending Johan Djourou down the pecking order.

Injuries to the regular fullbacks saw Djourou get a shot as a make-shift right back, but he was torn apart countless times, with the games against Blackburn (Ewood Park), Chelsea (Stamford Bridge) and Manchester United (Emirates) standing out. Djourou couldn’t even exhume confidence in some games he played as a center back with clumsy outings against Fulham (Craven Cottage) and AC Milan (San Siro) coming into the limelight.

A player that was somewhat indispensable in the 2010/11 season turned out to be a player bereft in confidence, shaky, clumsy, timid, pain to watch, and of course, part of Arsenal’s “deadwood”.

Whispers of Jan Vertonghen’s imminent arrival would have given Djourou more nightmares but the Belgian star has opted for Tottenham rather than Arsenal, giving the Swiss center back a sigh of relief.

A few days ago, Switzerland coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, suggested that Johan Djourou should leave Arsenal if he wants to continue playing international football.

Many fans want Djourou out because they feel that he’s part of the deadwood ravaging the club’s wage bill without giving the required output and Hitzfeld has decided to join the Djourou Out Brigade.

It seems as if Djourou has decided to crack, because he has revealed that he’s open to offers:

“My situation at Arsenal is not easy, I’ve never played so little, and especially not in my own position.

Despite having a contract until 2015, he says, “If an interesting offer comes, I’ll look at it for sure.”

Djourou has already been linked with a move to Italian champions, Juventus, and many will be hopeful that the move materializes sooner than later.

Djourou has notched up 138 appearances for Arsenal and like many of his teammates, he hasn’t gotten that bliss feeling of standing on a podium to celebrate a trophy. However, he has two Carling Cup runner-up medals and a Champions League runner-up medal.

Whatever Johan Djourou’s future would bring, I can only wish him all the best because he’s at the stage of his career where he needs more games under his belt.

Unfortunately, Arsenal is not the club to offer him that.

Here’s to Johan Djourou, a stalwart that has dedicated eight years of his life to the Red and White.

Sayonara.

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More thoughts on RVP’s ‘Loyalty’ and some Transfer Speculation

Bouchra….playing a role for Arsenal?

As different European managers continue to submit their final 23-man squad lists for the forthcoming European Championships, jaws have been dropped and eyebrows have been raised. However, Arsenal has had its fair share of ambassadors that are essential pieces of their national team’s jigsaw puzzle.

With the curtain raiser for the competition barely a week away, the gates of the Emirates have remained shut, as Arsenal fans continue to feel the wind pass through the gates instead of gracing themselves with the wonderful sight of new signings.

I had promised my folks in my Arsenal BlackBerry group, Team Goonerdaily, that I won’t write about any transfer speculation till I see something concrete on Arsenal.com but when I delve into my Twitter timeline, all I see is,

‘Arsenal linked with A‘, ‘B has agreed personal terms and it will be announced after the Euros’, ‘C has declared that he’ll prefer Chelsea’, ‘D wants a salary of £300,000′ and the list goes on and on.

The media Vultures swarm around Arsenal publishing a million and one articles with the aim of getting hits and what have you, but I’ve decided to take my ‘pick from the pack’.

The Daily Mail has reported that Arsenal is trailing Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente, who has a buy-out clause of £28m. The Lion King, as he’s known in Basque, has scored 113 goals in 296 appearances for the Basque-based outfit and had his best return as a footballer last season with 29 goals in 53 apps (17 in Liga BBVA).

However, paying £28m for a 27-year-old striker with one year left on his contract is outrageous by our standards, and I believe that it’s just one of those news pieces that would make a few fans drool.

There’s also some news about Arsenal target, Olivier Giroud, as Montpellier Herault president, Louis Nicollin, has confirmed that the striker as well as club captain, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, are free to search for greener pastures, if they receive a “suitable” bid.

It is believed that Giroud has £12.8m release clause on his current contract, but the Scrooge-esque nature of Arsene Wenger and his transfer handling folks is proving that the fee is too much. Giroud finished as Ligue 1’s top scorer with 21 goals and from the few highlights I’ve seen, he’ll be worth the outlay.

In Montpellier’s penultimate game against LOSC Lille Metropole, he showed off his composure in the 94th minute to hand out an assist to Karim Ait Fana who scored the goal that gave the club one hand in the Ligue 1 trophy. They eventually won the league through John Utaka’s brace on the last day of the campaign. More recently, his cameo performance for France against Iceland was eye-catching to say the least.

I’ll certainly take this Giroud bloke over Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young and I’ll be looking forward to seeing his performances for Les Bleus in the Euros.

The Daily Mail also reported that Arsenal is keeping tabs on Manchester City’s no-nonsense holding midfielder, Nigel de Jong. Unlike Llorente and Giroud, I’ve watched de Jong on a consistent basis and I know his capabilities.

For what it’s worth, he’s the football definition of a beast and unlike Alex Song, he knows, breathes, loves his “primary” job and he’s damn good at it.

Elsewhere, Tottenham has stated that they’re confident in completing the deals for Jan Vertonghen and Emmanuel Adebawh*re. Speaking of wh*res, football’s most sought-after ho, Eden Wh*rezard has finally chosen his pimp, Chelsea. The news hasn’t gone down well with his other numerous suitors but we should brace ourselves for a hazardous campaign from Chelsea, because he’s one hell of a player.

Moving over to player departures, Johan Djourou has been advised by his national team manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld, to leave Arsenal or risk not featuring for his nation while Nicklas Bendtner has bored us with his cliches yet again that he’s in talks with other clubs.

Like we actually care.

However, there’s a Gunner everyone cares about. He’s presently the club’s best player as well as the captain, all-spark, talisman, Flying Dutchman, perpetual goal scoring machine and the football standard for measuring technique.

Speculation regarding Robin van Persie’s future is rife, and Arsenal fans are already fearing for the worst, as they’re bracing themselves up for a post-van Persie era. Despite the fact that Arsenal’s shameful Board of Directors (yes, I said it!) hasn’t flexed their muscles enough to give Wenger the kind of funds required to attract “You-know-who”, there’s still a wild card left to play.

Behind every great man, there’s a woman providing support because a head with a shiny crown is nothing without its neck. Bouchra van Persie, an amazing woman with two amazing kids, has supported her husband, and she also has Arsenal’s best interests in her heart.

However, she has urged her hubby to repay the Gunners’ faith by staying at Emirates Stadium:

“Arsenal showed faith in Robin when he was going through a lean time, so we should not repay them by thinking about other clubs. Besides, our home life and our children are happy in London.”  

Just as many Arsenal fans have dwelt on, it all comes down to loyalty yet again, which is a bit overrated in my opinion. In football, like every other profession, a player would always want to get rewarded for his output, whether it’s in his current workplace or elsewhere.

The 2011/12 season was the campaign van Persie showed what injuries have robbed Arsenal of. If he was around 25-26 years, he might have been odds on stay for certain, but at nearing 29, this is his last chance for him to make a big move and Arsenal to obtain a significant fee.

Yes, we stuck with van Persie through the bad times but the term “loyalty” has been thrown into the air because we wan’t a player of van Persie’s calibre to stay.

Manuel Almunia spent almost the same amount of years, if not more, than van Persie, but we swept him by the roadside and treated him like dirt, because we have players like Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski as well as young Guns like Vito Mannone and Emiliano Martinez.

If Manuel Almunia demanded that we should show him some “loyalty” by handing him a contract extension, he would have been on the end of some barrage and vitriol from the fans.

However, van Persie has openly stated that’s he’s not motivated by money but he would like his club to show some ambition by getting a few additions. Is that too much to ask?

I, like every thoroughbred Gooner out there, remain hopeful that van Persie would stay, but if he goes, the world as we know it won’t come to an end.

Besides, Arsenal is like the mythical creature, Hydra.

If you take one head out, another will pop up.

Sayonara.

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The Robin van Persiegate Saga: What the Gunners Think About it

It’s all about trophies innit? (photo via Goal.com)

“I have been at the club for eight years and I am proud of that. I am a true Gunner. I love this club and that is no secret.”

“I will sit down with the manager and president at the end of the season and we will have coffee together.

“We will talk about many things but I already do that quite often with the manager anyway.”

These words were culled from the player that carried Arsenal’s goalscoring burden on his back the way Atlas carries the Pandora’s Box.

If he wasn’t in existence and his amazing haul of 30 league goals was taken away from the total number of goals Arsenal scored in the league,  the Gunners would have shared the same number of goals with Swansea (44), a team that finished the league in 11th place.

Van Persie has been a class act all season long, and he has handled himself admirably amidst the media vulture barrages in regard to his future. Towards the mid-point of this concluded campaign, van Persie was approached by Arsenal’s hierarchy with contract talks imminent, but he stalled till the end of the season.

Days after the enthralling curtain closer against West Brom that sealed the Gunners Champions League fate, the figureheads of the club braced up for a “crucial meeting” with van Persie, with his future being the agenda of the meeting. I’d hoped for Alex Song to accompany van Persie that fateful day, knowing that he could assist him, but they reached a deadlock.

Many Gooners started questioning van Persie’s “loyalty” but this masterpiece of an article by Lady Arse gave me a path to follow regarding this situation. I strongly suggest that you read it to get a “path” too.

In my own humble words, I gave five reasons why van Persie shouldn’t be begrudged if he decided to leave Arsenal which included:

  • Arsenal’s lack of transfer activity in general
  • Failure to replace key members of the squad
  • Present deadwood playing for the club
  • The heavy burden of goalscoring and,
  • A player of his talent deserves better.

For reasons best known to Chuck Norris, Master Yoda and probably Loki, I want to place myself in van Persie’s shoes.

I, a young talented footballer had a tumultuous start to my career but I found solace in the hands of a man I can call my father (Wenger). He took me in and handed me a chance to work with the best elder brothers around (Henry and Bergkamp) and they did their possible best to tutor me in the right path before handing over the baton.

However, I suffered more injuries than the amount of times Lionel Messi fires a shot on target and I couldn’t fulfil the massive potential everyone believed I had. There were calls for my head on a plate, but my daddy stood by me and never stopped believing that I’ll come good.

After going to the bowels of the Earth, using horse placentas and what have you, I started 2011 with a bang and finished it with a bigger bang. Within months, I became the headline of every back page as I smashed records on the go. In my second season of full fitness, I guided my team to a third place finish but at some point in the season, I publicly declared that without them I’m nothing.

Now that my father (Wenger), brothers (teammates) and extended family (fans) need me the most, I’ve told them all that my stingy Scrooge of a daddy has to bring in new brothers before I can extend my stay. I also declare that I’m not really moved by green paper.

This my esteemed readers, is the Robin van Persiegate saga and here’s what other Gunners think about it.

In January, Le Forehead Gervinho said,

“I don’t want Robin van Persie to be sold. Arsenal is a team that needs great footballers and leaders on the pitch.

“And Robin is a player that pushes his team-mates to work more and do more during a match. It is a dream to play with him. He is the captain, the leader of the group, there is no doubt.

“I could see it from my very first day at the club. I believe when our adversaries see Robin in the team, it is a huge psychological shock.”

Arsenal’s newly-created backbone, Mikel Arteta is convinced that he’ll stay:

He is completely unaffected by interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona and not thinking about his contract renewal either.

“Now he is very calm and is not nervous about anything. I know he has said that in the summer he will consider things, talk it over and take the decision that he will take.”

Goalkeeping legend in the making, Wojciech Szczesny, declared that he’s here to stay:

“We are trying to make the most of it while he is here, he is a great captain and leader of the team and we are very pleased to have him.

“I’m personally confident that he will stay at Arsenal. That is where he belongs and that is where he is at his very best.

More recently, Bacary Sagna shared his views too:

I honestly don’t know and Robin is the only person who will know that and I’m not sure that he’s even sure. I can tell you that he has a great desire to win games and to play in the Champions League.

‘We want more players to come to the team.

Finally, the much-maligned Aaron Ramsey gave his take on the situation:

“He has proven this season what his value is to the team with the goals he has scored. It’s important to keep those sort of players at the club.

“He was our top goalscorer, won the Golden Boot and the Player of the Year awards, so any team would want to keep him. Arsenal are no different.

“He hasn’t given any of the other lads any indications on what he is going to do. Nothing has been said. But, hopefully, he will stay.”

These Gunners have shared their views regarding the enigma shrouding van Persie’s future.

What’s yours?

Sayonara.

You can follow Gooner Daily on Twitter @goonerdaily. I’ll follow back

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