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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Johan Djourou has fantastic composure and acceleration off the mark

Arsenal's 3-0 away win in Zagreb last night is an excellent way to begin our attempt to finish off the job we started in the final four months of last season by clawing back fourth place from our North London neighbours. With 90 minutes still to go it will be premature to say that we have booked our place in the Champs League group stage, but we have given ourselves a major advantage going into the home second leg, and that's all that Gunner's would have hoped for yesterday.

Very encouraging and predictable for me is that this young team is simply getting better all the time. Ever since our performance in the Bernabeu, the 'next-generation' AFC have been consistently proving their worth and their mettle. The likes of Fabregas, Eboue, Van Persie, Hleb, and Adebayor are now a season more experienced, a season more battle-hardened, and many of our youngsters now even have World Cup tournament football experience to fall back on.

This time last year, although I had extremely high hopes for the likes of Fabregas and Van Persie, I could not say with complete confidence that they were fully ready to be regular first team players. Conversely, at the start of this season I can say with huge confidence that they are all ready now to be consistent, high quality performers game-in, game-out.

Plus, unlike the England national team, these young Gunners are not just developing individually into excellent players but significantly know how to play together as a cohesive footballing unit. They all know their roles in the team - and how to seamlessly link-up with one another to cause problems to their opponents. The collective performance of our team averaging 23 years of age against the Croatian champions was possession football of a very high quality- and the three goals were due reward for it. Of course, Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff must take credit for being able to create a team that is at least the equal to the sum of its parts

I have written many times on the qualities of Fabregas and Van Persie (for example, check out in the archives: 14 July 2005 - 'Fabregas is reason why Arsenal can afford to let Vieira go'; 28 Nov 2005 - 'Van Persie's grooved technique is the reason why he won't stop scoring') so although I'm tempted I'll pass on focusing on these two individuals who were the goal-scorers last night. Instead, I want to focus on a player who has consistently impressed me in his few appearances for the Gunners, and who will be starting the season in centre-defence alongside Kolo Toure due to the shoulder injury that has ruled out Phillipe Senderos until October.

That player is 19 year old Johan Djourou. There are not many 19 year old centre-backs who can say they have played World Cup football, but Djourou played two games for a Switzerland team that did not concede a goal during the competition. And for me there is no surprise that the Swiss coach had the faith to select the young Gunner: this is a young centre-back to believe in because he has fantastic composure on the ball, and his acceleration of the mark is outstanding. One example of the latter yesterday was his speed of recovery in getting back to thwart the through-on-goal Zagreb centre-forward when the score was 0-2. He has a sense of calm about his defending that is impressive, and at only 19 years of age he is only going to get better learning from his older peers Kolo Toure and Phillipe Senderos.

Of course, because of his age and relative inexperience the next couple of months may prove to be a difficult baptism of fire for Djourou. But surrounded by the experience of Toure, Lehmann, and Gilberto; plus equipped with what appears to be an exceptional temperament for defending, I'm sure he will be able to handle the responsibilty well.

I also believe that the apparent ease with which Wenger accepted the departure of Sol Campbell (who has decided to join Portsmouth??!) is because he knows that Djourou is ready now to progress into a first-team player and first-choice cover for Toure or Senderos. With what I have seen of Djourou up to now, I agree.


Anonymous geirsan said...

I completely agree with your analysis. Djorou has proved again and again that he has got the ability, and for me not only that - I think he is ready for a regular first team spot.
If Arsene was to sign any new players, who should they put out of the team? I can't think of anyone, and if one of our players are out - say Gilberto, a guy like Flamini is well able to fill his boots.

8/09/2006 1:06 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agre with most of what you said. Wenger must have assessed the fact that Johan was playing better than Fatty Fatty Sol Sol.

8/09/2006 1:06 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S Flamini cannot fill Gilberto's boots or even a sandle (which technically,, you don't even have to fill).

If Gilberto and Cesc were injured, what would we do? Song and Flamini would not be an amusing prospect.

I think that Wenger sees Muamba as the long term replacement for Gilberto and that is why he is off gaining valuable 1st team experience.


8/09/2006 1:12 pm

Blogger markyboy said...

Nice to see some proper footballing points being made on a site for once. That said I can't agree with the main report nor the three responses to date. Youngsters (anyone under 20/21) in football will never give you consistancy over 50/60 games a year which is whats needed if we are to get back to the heights of a few years ago. Equally important they will not have the collective physical strength to deal with the nothern away games at your Bolton's, Blackburn's, Everton's, et al.

Also if Djorou is ready for the first team why is Wenger looking to bring in a good quality centre back ie Gallas, Davies, etc which Wenger has been open about.

At the beginning of last season I stated to anyone and everyone that Arsenal would finish 4th and were only likely to pick up silverware through the cup competitions.

Despite the improvements in the youngsters over the last season I cannot see us doing any better unless we buy a top class powerful centre half and defensive minded midfield player who are both strong characters on and off the pitch. Joey Barton would have been a great buy for us. Mark my words this lad will be the equvilent of defensive minded Lampard in the next season or two.

In a nutshell Mr Wenger's team looks great when it has the ball going forward but doesn't do the the necessary work when they haven't got it (at least not week in week out)

He has created a team that on its day is the best in the country but its winning when your not at your best that wins the premiership and we still haven't got the squad for that.

8/09/2006 1:43 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

joey barton!!! u are having a laugh arent you? he plays nin a iunept man citeh side and looks a very average player at best. he is not Arsenal material.
dehjrou was excellent last night, i am preturbed at eboues defending he was caught the wrong side of the attacker on too many occassions last night.
CESC gets better and better, rosicky looked very good and can play in fabs place were he to get injured.
reyes shoild be sold if that is what he wants. we should ask for baptista in return, that will give us the muscle and height.
once diaby returns we will be ok for defensive midfielders plus i have a feeling song will be an excellent player in the next few years.

8/09/2006 2:06 pm

Anonymous Gerry said...

I think that Arsenal have to put complete faith in youth in order to stand any chance of beating Chelsea and Man U next season. This is big gamble and probably won't work in full-but it is the only chance we have of beating these two very defence minded teams who beat us comfortably last year.It is teamwork, and movement which is our best hope.Going for strong players may just slow us up too much. I think that we should sign Yaya and Ribery- and play them centrally-but don't think Wenger will sign anyone -even if he sells Cole and Reyes.

8/09/2006 2:24 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Song makes simple passes look difficult and if he turns out to be a great player, i would be seriously shocked.

Diaby is not a defensive midfielder, neither is Yaya.


8/09/2006 2:47 pm

Blogger markyboy said...

Anonymous I can tell why you publish under that particular name! Arsene was actually interested in Barton last year and stated such on television in an interview and according to you he knows what he's doing. Barton is a terrific player and you will have to eat large dollops of humble pie in the next season or two when he really emerges to be one of the best midfielders in the prem.

As for your 'Arsene knows' comment how come we scrapped 4th place last season by the skin of our teeth, was that past of his plan? Without doubt Arsene is a great offensive coach but he needs a George Graham type coach around him to properly set up a team to defend when they haven't got the ball. The only decent defense we've had under Wenger is the one he initially inherited. Even during the unbeaten season we didn't keep many clean sheets.

8/09/2006 3:02 pm

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Thanks for the summary T - it does sound like Djourou had a great game...and Senderos might even be pushed to get back into the side! HA!

Didn't see the game...but good result. I'd like to see more of Hoyte and Djourou and for them to get a bit better as solid backup to the first team.

8/09/2006 3:23 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are 2 anonymous posters at the moment, I think that Barton is quite a good player and an English one at that, but there must be a reason Arsene didn't REALLY try to sign him.

2gangster2work (it's ironic FOOLS)

8/09/2006 3:24 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

keown did some defensive coaching last year didn't he?

working with diaby and gilbert etc?

8/09/2006 3:34 pm

Anonymous Northbanker said...

Don't forget peeps... Hleb played CM for Stuttgart and Belarus before he came to us... so he's cover there with Freddie, or Walcott, coming into RM

Djorou looks good and is ready for regular games. Hoyte looked uncomfortable on the wrong side, but it was a big ask. Remember Lauren can also play CDM... we have options, just not ones as obvious as Chavski ( ie, 2 acknowledged specialists for every position)

and Markyboy... the squad had a tough season last year ( campbell, cole, 8th choice left back etc etc etc)... whilst the chavs spent huge again. Concentrate on Eboue, Cesc, Flamini surprising everyone at LB etc - the positives from last year - don't blame Arsene for factors beyond his control.

Your comment that Arsene's only decent defence was inherited - lol, you don't say? That was the best defense ever and took 10 years to build - they'd already played hundreds of games with each other when he arrived. How, exactly, is he meant to top that other than by evolution.( After keeping them as long as he possibly could, extending TA's career in the process). With the last of em gone, and we now have Clichy - Phil - Toure - Eboue to look forward to, potentially for 10 years, and that will do me, ta very much ( Clichy being better than Cole was at the same age)

8/09/2006 6:15 pm

Anonymous Ton said...

-First off, Wenger never said he was "interested" in Barton as such. He was asked about Barton, and as he always does, said something polite about him. If he were truly interested in him, he could have bought him several times by now. Barton's a decent player, and might be useful against the likes of Bolton and Blackburn, but he's squad not starting material. Would Barton be happy with a Flamini/Grimandi role?

-gerry - you say we should put faith in the youth, then that we should put Yaya and Ribery in the centre. You can't have it both ways. Yaya is not a DM, Ribery's a bit too headdown to be a central playmaker.

-Hleb has played very well centrally, but Wenger hasn't seemed too keen on putting him in there - too lightweight? It's Rosicky's favoured position as well, and I think he could fill in for Cesc. Flamini in a pinch. Cover for Gilberto I have more concern about. Long term, Song could be the answer and seems to be ahead of Flamini there in Wenger's mind, but he's go a long ways to go. Diaby's not a DM as 2gangster said. Flamini's not a natural DM, more of a box-to-box player. Lauren could play DM, but that was several years ago. Would Wenger try him there now? I have my doubts. I agree, Muamba and Song could potentially play there next season, so should we buy someone this year? I don't think Wenger will. Also, considering Toure, Senderos, and Djorou to be a capable first three, would Wenger buy a "big name" central defender? Probably someone more along the lines of a younger Cygan.

-I'd have to think that Keown did have some influence on the improvement of the defense last season.

-"Only decent defense" - we had the fewest goals condeded that season, the backbone being 4 of 5 Wenger purchases - Lehmann, Lauren, Toure, Sol, +Cole who emerged from the academy during Wenger's time, and Keown in the dressing room. Can't beat Graham's, which was the best of all time, but it was the best in the league that season.

8/09/2006 7:53 pm

Blogger Kim Stian Ervik said...

I bet Wenger is too afraid of Hleb loosing the ball in the middle, as he does that too often.

Rosicky can and will play in the middle, like he does for the Czechs. He is amazing in that position, but you can play both him and Cesc in the middle at the same time.

Regarding the defence, not signing anyone is a gamble, but I would love it if Wenger did it. I would love for Arsenal to create its own starts and not just buy 30ish old players of known World-Class quality.

8/09/2006 8:10 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Van Persie isn't ready yet. This is a make or break season for him.

Djourou looks pretty good - but let's not get too excited yet. The real test will come when that bastard Shevchenko is riding all over him via through balls from Cole and Robben. I do think he could be amazing though.

Fabregas - he is a future world player of the year. I've never seen someone make this difficult game look so simple. He is the antithesis of that idiot Christiano Ronaldo who makes everything look so convoluted.

I think if we get rid of Reyes for Ribery, get Gallas in and Appiah / Yaya Toure we will rock. Can't see any of that happening though.

8/10/2006 1:24 am

Blogger blingblong2000 said...

we seem to be at bloggerheads with chelsea for get ridding of cashley cunuts.... i'd take the 16m but instead of gallas i'd have geremi, i thinks he's much more stronger and fluid than essien... and he can play in a number of positions

8/10/2006 2:43 am

Anonymous Thanks Reyes said...

Djorou played for the switz against the Ukraine and was taken off in the first half he was caught on the wrong side of the defender so much. He has pace but alot to learn - too soon for the Boltons. Diaby IS a defensive midfielder and will be a cracking one when his character is built up a bit. The best point I read here is our dire need for a defensive COACH. If someone could point out basic positional sense to the likes od Hleb and Henry et al in defending various set pieces ande slowing opposition attackes down ,it would be worth any extra 15 points a season. Wenger only spoke about BArton because he was in the middle of bringing in 3 other players (smokescreening). He was never going to touch him for the same reasons be didn't go for Bellamy. They are both thugs..

8/10/2006 12:52 pm

Blogger gazzap said...

I am beginning to think Djourou is more first choice than senderos when the latter is fit again. JD is far quicker and seems to attack the ball better than PS. I'd play all 3 of them in a 3-5-2 anyway.

someone mentioned Geremi. I agree it would be a good buy to cover short term central midfield but chelsea wont do business with us. the two clubs hate each other too much to ever do sensible business. ie Chelsea are too scared of Arsenal's threat.

8/10/2006 4:36 pm

Blogger Sharad said...

good article.

About reyes, i was NEVER convinced he fit into the arsenal way of things in the first place. I was excited by his technique at first and his 2 goals v chelski but after the man u game he showed a mental fragility and hasn't been the same since.

Not arsenal material. Doesn't have a mature footballing brain yet he just has good technique.

8/10/2006 6:52 pm

Blogger Sharad said...

if wenger got his hands on 25 million quid imagine what he could buy .....much more worth than chelshite could buy for that price..maybe that's why they don't want to pay 25 million for cashley cole.

8/10/2006 6:54 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks everyone for your comments... much appreciated and many good points raised.

8/10/2006 11:45 pm

Blogger EL said...

Sorry to bring the conversation around to the Spuds but this is the only site I know where I'll get a genuine & considered answer from any arsenal supporters (others welcome) but;

out of interest, how confident are you of finishing above the Spuds or in the top 4? At the moment I'm getting a whole variety of answers from fans of all teams. Probably a good sign as far as the premiership goes.

Hope you enjoyed your holidays, look forward to more posts.


8/11/2006 6:45 pm

Blogger T said...

Thanks EL. Well speaking for myself I'm confident of a better season than last simply because we were a shadow of ourselves for the first half of last season due primarily to the short-term-shock of losing Vieira - which definitely hit the team hard - and also that our other big experienced players like Henry, Ljungbery, Campbell, Cole/Clichy (both LB's) faced significant spells out of the team with injury.

In other words, we were in a teething stage transition where the likes of Fabregas, Hleb, Van Persie, Senderos were having to grow up fast.... and it is definitely true that we were rocking - there was a spell in December when we lost three Premiership games in a row that springs to mind.

But ever since the Bernabeu win this new AFC have steadily proven - at least to me - that they have what it takes to be a consistent high-performing team... so I'm confident that we can have a good season and would like to think that we have what it takes to finish above your team.

Whether we have enough to displace Chelsea is another question... I make Chelsea favourites for the Premiership but in football who knows what will happen?

As for Spurs, I really like the signing of Berbatov... for me he is much better than Mido and I'm sure he is going to get many goals. I will also look forward to seeing the progression of Lennon who for me was a revelation last season and brings real attacking threat to your midfield. On the other hand, I think the loss of Carrick to Man U is a big blow- as is the loss to injury of King for the first couple of months of this season.

I would also like to see how your squad adjusts to playing midweek European football in tandem with P'ship football... it shouldn't be that big a deal but at the same time I did think that your team had an advantage over us last season in playing just 40 competitive matches and being able to focus your efforts and energy entirely on the P'ship.

How do you see things for your team this year?

8/12/2006 4:19 pm

Blogger EL said...

Cheers t,

Well I agree about your team being a shadow of what they were during the seasons before and expect them to pick up where they left off but who finishes where in the 4 places behind chelski (I imagine) is anybody's guess. I've asked plenty of people and the answers I've got back cover every possible variation though they always include Man u, Liverpool, Tottenham & Arsenal. No matter who I ask or who they support. I like to think it'll be close again between our respective favourites but we'll see. I've talked to some who reckon on Liverpool for the title but I can't see it myself. I think they'll draw too many games as will Man u. Whatever happens, I'm really looking forward to the season starting.


8/12/2006 11:08 pm

Blogger EL said...

Oh hang on I chickened out of answering the question you finished on.

I actually see Spurs finishing 5th again but if we managed higher I'd guess that Man u or Liverpool would lose out at our expense. It's really too close to call though between all but chelski.

Here's hoping

8/12/2006 11:13 pm

Blogger T said...

Nice one EL.

To me, Spurs definitely look to be the team most likely to break into top four as demonstrated by last season's performance and your pre-season results... so I share your prediction that you will finish no less than in fifth position.

8/13/2006 11:55 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete nice to see a discussion between the Spuds & Gunners without the inane insults & cowardly swearing that usually goes on.

As for your question EL....yes I agree Spuds were good last year, and will be hard to beat this season, but I am confident enough in the squad we now have to say I expect AFC to finish 1st or 2nd this season. I expect Liverpool to fight it out with Spuds & Manure for 3rd place. Hopefully, as an 'OLD' Gunner, I would like Spuds to finish just below us to mantain the correct order of things.

Mind you if any team has the terrible injury start that we had last season they will struggle as we did. Which makes the achievement of our kids ie; almost winning the Champions League Cup with 10 men, even more incredible. Their confidence in their ability must be sky hi, and when you see tyhe bench we now have (without the great young players on loan) you will realise that my optimism is not missplaced.

't' will vairy that I have had a lot of faith in certain young players before they came to our first team squad, and now I can honestly see what AW is doing in letteing Cashley & Reyes go for.

He has in my opinion even better players to bring in sooner than expected. One being Ryan Garry, who before his terrible injuries was as good a left back as Ive seen at his age. Two, as I mentioned this time last year, Bentner is the nearest to our Dennis with touch and ability Ive seen again for many years, and he will come back in January.

My only wish on the buying front, is for AW to spend the Cole money on Diarra or Nolan for our Midfield. I also would like a world class goalie or potential, like Kirkland to be bought in. If none arrive I see us taking off until the Lancashire Cloggers get to us, and then we will see how deep our squad is.

8/13/2006 2:18 pm

Blogger T said...

Good to have your comments as always GP. I'm used now - as I'm sure you are - to expect that Wenger will exercise amazing self-discipline in the transfer market... so am not surprised that he has only bought one recognised player (Rosicky) in this summer despite the departures of Pires, Bergkamp, Campbell; and expected departures of Cole and Clichy.

His faith is in his young players to take over the mantle- and given the quality of our youngsters I support it. This makes me doubt that we will see anymore new faces- good as it will be to see the squad bolstered in certain areas (the CM and the CB departments could both do with one more high quality player).

Talking about our CM dept- I wonder if Merida will be ready for a glimpse of first-team action by the end of the season. Having seen a video of him in action and the fact that Wenger thinks enough of him to bring him to Highbury, I feel it may turn out to be one of the most significant signings of the summer by any team despite it failing to hit the headlines??

The first time I saw Fabregas live was when I went to the Millenium Stadium for the Community Shield in August 2004... and I was blown away by his passing range and composure on the ball for someone so young. After that match I told my EFT colleagues that if Vieira was to go (and there was a lot of specualtion at the time that he was on the verge of moving to Madrid) than Arsenal had a youngster of huge potential ready to take over on the basis of what I saw for my own eyes in Cardiff.

I really hope I reach the same sort of conclusion when I first see Merida in action.

8/14/2006 6:28 pm

Blogger T said...

Redaing over my last comment I noticed that - probably not for the last time - I said Highbury instead of The Emirates!

8/14/2006 6:30 pm


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