Thoughts on Johan Djourou’s Permanent Switch to Hamburg SV
In his twilight years at Arsenal, Johan Djourou was attributed with many traits from a certain faction of the Arsenal faithful – bereft in confidence, shaky, clumsy, timid, pain to watch, “deadwood”.
To the fans, he was nothing more than the ‘fourth choice’ defender behind Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen in the pecking order.
If you permit me to take you down memory lane, Djourou belonged to the class of those “young Guns” that were tipped for big things when he arrived at the club from Etiole Carouge in 2005 but he had one hell of a worrisome knee, weak ankles, bad thighs, you name it.
Like Robin van Persie and Abou Diaby, Djourou spent a considerable chunk of his Arsenal career in the treatment table and I’m sure that there would be a location in the club’s hospital with his name written boldly on 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.
With Kolo Toure shipped to the oilers of Manchester City following his fallout with William Gallas, Djourou was exposed to some more first-team action but he suffered a terrible knee injury which required a surgery, putting him on the sidelines for the best part of one year.
He returned to first team action in the 2010/11 season and his chances of cementing a place in the team were enhanced as Vermaelen suffered an Achilles tendon injury in a needless international game for Belgium. Alongside new recruit, Laurent Koscielny, Djourou forged a telepathic understanding as well as creating a catchy nickname, Djourcielny.
Djourou became a rock in Arsenal’s defence and he managed to stay fit until that ill-fated moment in February 2011 where he suffered a shoulder injury in the 4-4 capitulation in the hands of Newcastle after some shambolic defending and horrifying officiating from Phil Dowd.
The more games Sebastien Squillaci played alongside Koscielny, the more culpable Arsenal were in their defending and with Manuel Almunia reaching his nadir against West Bromwich, Djourou’s return was like a breath of fresh air. However, Djourou aggravated his shoulder injury following a clash with Bacary Sagna in the FA Cup loss to Manchester United and it was stated that he needed re-constructive surgery and he was going to be out for the season.
In somewhat mysterious circumstances, Djourou made a swift return after one month and he put up some shaky performances, particularly, in the 3-1 defeat to Stoke where he was more or less involved in Jon Walters’ hat-trick.
In the subsequent campaign, 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”.
Arsenal fans lost their patience and they wanted Djourou out because they feel that he was part of the deadwood ravaging the club’s wage bill without giving the required output and Ottmar Hitzfeld, his Swiss manager at that time, also joined the Djourou Out Brigade, citing that he needed more game time to secure his place in the Swiss national team
Djourou cracked at the pressure and revealed that he was 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.”
After an uneventful loan spell at Hannover 96, Djourou made a switch to Hamburg SV and after nothing up 20 or so first team appearances for the German outfit, they’ve decided to activate the buyout clause, which ultimately means that he’s switching permanently to the club.
Hamburg’s manager, Mirko Siomka, expressed his delight on securing the lad on a permanent basis,
“I am happy that he’s staying with us for the next few years as he’s a stabilising influence at the centre of our defence,”
While Bayern Munich have secured the Bundesliga title with so many games to spare, Hamburg are currently in a relegation dog fight at the foot of the table.
Djourou notched up 138 appearances for Arsenal and like many of his former 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.
With Djourou’s gone as well as Nicklas Bendtner’s imminent departure this summer, Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott are now the longest serving players that the club as they joined in January 2006.
Here’s to Johan Djourou, a stalwart that has dedicated eight years of his life to the Red and White.
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