So it seems the words from Ottmar Hitzfeld managed to register with Johan Djourou. Earlier this week the current Switzerland manager made the suggestion to Johan that it may be in his best interests to sever his ties with Arsenal in search of more regular football which will in turn enhance his opportunities with his national team.
Over the past season the Swiss stopper has slipped down the pecking order for the centre back position at the heart of the Arsenal defence. Given the continual improvement of Laurent Koscielny, The return to fitness of Thomas Vermaelen and the purchase of Per Mertesacker Johan has found himself as 4th choice centre back.
His performances compared to the 2010-11 season have not been as commanding and assured meaning his progression has stalled. Add to that having to play out of position a number of times Johan never really got into his stride when called upon. Most players need a run of games to shake off the rust and maybe he never had that to really force Arsene Wenger’s hand in selecting him more often.
Djourou was quoted as saying in an interview with Swiss media “I’ve never played so little and especially not in my own position. If an interesting offer comes, I’ll look at it carefully”. It’s a fair comment from the defender, he hasn’t played as often in preferred position and so he needs to evaluate any opportunities.
What Arsenal will miss out on if he were to move on is his quality as a relative 4th choice centre back. Not many clubs can boast 4th choice centre backs in the same caliber as Johan. You only have to look over at a club like Manchester City and the walking disaster that was Stefan Savic. At times he seemed on a one man crusade to derail the Manchester club’s title charge.
Although Johan may not be as popular with many Arsenal fans; last season the alternative was Sebastian Squillaci, the still quite raw Ignasi Miquel or moving Song out of position to cover. I saw no problem with him as a 4th choice defender though most footballers would not be accepting of being 4th choice for a position when at the age of 25 and a current international player.
I touched on the alternatives for Johan and you have to question whether Arsene has any plans to promote within if the Swiss defender moves on. I do not see Sebastian Squillaci being on the Arsenal books next season; I believe he will be moved on. His time with Arsenal has been a constant downward spiral and even Wenger must realize his confidence will only reduce further the longer he stays at the club. Then again Wenger could surprise us all and keep him around. Ignasi Miquel shows promise but is still a bit raw. He would benefit from first team experience on loan somewhere for a season to aid his development.
Kyle Bartley will be returning to the club after his time on loan with Rangers. Would he be an option for that slot in the team? Despite the turmoil at the Glasgow club young Kyle still managed to play a number of games in the first team and in his fair share of high-profile old firm derbies. Although he may not have always played at centre back whilst on loan he still gained valuable experience and probably enhanced his mental strength for performing at a big club. I suppose Arsene will have a look at him over pre-season and assess whether he has stepped up to the level required to represent Arsenal.
There was some nice news emanating from the Belgian camp this week as our vice captain declared his love for the club and how happy he is there. In preparation for the upcoming friendly against England Thomas is hoping that he will overcome a niggling groin injury to be able to face the three lions.
To hear Vermaelen state: “There will be no transfer for me. I love London. I’ve got a house there, I’m happy there and I don’t see any reason to ever leave the club” It does help restore your faith that players can openly declare they are happy at a club and assure fans how they really feel.
Many times when a player has left his club to join up with their national team they usually have free license to talk about everything about themselves ranging from contract negotiations, how unhappy they are, which clubs they admire to their favorite flavor of ice cream.
Usually the players use it as a chance to vent something they don’t like going on at their club. They aren’t under the press constraints usually imposed on them during the season by their club and so many fall into the trap of revealing too much. The more intelligent footballer’s now realize just because they hold an interview in their mothers tongue it can be translated into English and reported in our press.
So it is definitely nice to hear the positive words coming from Thomas Vermaelen. Not usually the stuff our Red Tops would find headline news but the kind of news that is of interest to Arsenal fans.
Good on him, that’s the kind of loyalty and determination his international team-mate Jan Vertonghen should take note of.
Enjoy your day people