Johan Djourou has stressed his commitment to the Arsenal cause despite being frustrated at what he deems unwarranted criticism for performances made while playing out of position.
The Swiss international was tipped to leave the Emirates this summer, under pressure from national team coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, but insists that he is happy at Arsenal even though competition for a first team place is tougher than ever.
Speaking in the aftermath of Wednesday’s Capital One Cup thrashing of Coventry City, the centre-back, who was made captain for the evening told the Daily Mirror:
“People have forgotten that I am not a right-back. I took a lot of criticism last year for that, because I was playing out of position.
“When you play there for as long as I did last season people assume it IS your position. But it’s not. So, for me, it was a difficult season last year.
“As a player, I didn’t complain about being right-back because I am a team player – I would do anything for my team, for my manager and for my club.”
Now the longest serving member of Arsene Wenger’s first team squad, Djourou also took the time to praise Steve Bould, a coach under whom he played during his teenage years at the Arsenal Academy.
“Steve is a great coach and, to be honest, I believe we can achieve some big things with our manager and with him. He [Bould] was my first manager in the U-15s and U-17s and I have always had a great respect for him.
“Pat Rice was great, but because of the way Steve played the game, it’s just a massive positive for us.
“Steve works on team shape. With Arsenal, people have always blamed the defence for our problems, which I have always felt has been pretty harsh.
“With Steve joining Mr Wenger, it is not only the defence that protects the team – it starts from the front.
“Our midfielders, Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby, have been doing a great job protecting the defence and that’s what you need at this level.
“The guys are also working hard up front. Now it is the whole team that defends. There is a massive difference now to what we had before.”
When players who can’t even get into the starting line-up emanate positive vibes, it certainly hints at a strong team spirit.
On his day, Djourou is a fine defender, that he’s currently fourth down the centre-back pecking order is a testament to the current strength we have in the position.
The season though is long and with injuries likely to take their toll at some point it’s great knowing a player who is dedicated to the club will be there to step in if needed.