Former Arsenal defender, Johan Djourou, has penned a heart-felt message to Arsene Wenger following the criticism the Frenchman has faced recently.
Djourou shared a lovely message on his personal website on Friday in which he hailed Wenger for taking a chance on him when he was just 15 years old, as well as the advice the Frenchman gave him and what it did for the defender’s career.
“When I was 15-years old, Arsenal gave me the opportunity to trial with their pros,” he wrote. “For a week, I trained with the club’s first team and also participated in a friendly game (it was Robert Pires first game back after a long convalescence). After the game, Arsène Wenger spoke to me.
“He told me that he believed that I could have a big career in England. For an unexperienced kid still playing for a small Swiss club, hearing those words from a legendary Boss like him was just an unbelievable feeling.
“I love the memories of my first official game with the professional squad. I was just 17 when I put the kit on for the first time. I felt nervous, so Wenger came up to me and said: ‘Jo, I know it’s your first game, but you have to keep calm. When you come out of the tunnel, I want you to play the same way you would be playing in a park in Geneva.’ In my head, I was thinking that it certainly couldn’t be that easy, but it took a lot of pressure off me.
“From that moment on, I had the upmost respect for Wenger. He had kept his promises by giving me a chance to play with the first team only a few years after recruiting me. I will forever be thankful for what he did for me and my football career.
“I have always loved just how human he is. Even though it’s not always easy to work with all the players as a professional football coach, Wenger always tries. When taking difficult decisions, he’s very tactful when communicating them to the players. His personality really makes it enjoyable and a desire for players to play for him.”
The defender continued, “Wenger is also great at analysing things. In recent years, the relationship coaches have with their players has evolved. In modern football, coaches with a dominant personality have a difficult job. Today, players often bring into question what they are told to do. Wenger completely understands this mentality, and he’s always open for discussion; and doesn’t have a thickheaded personality like many believe.
“In recent months, it has saddened me to hear people were questioning him. It seems to me, nowadays, you can win as many times as you want, but people will only remember your losses.
“Fans, pundits and other players can say whatever they want, but nobody can deny that Wenger has brought in a philosophy and culture that created a lot of success for Arsenal. He has also brought a stability that only a few football clubs have.
“Of course, Arsène has been in place for a very long time. I can understand that the only thing fans want are titles, and that Arsenal hasn’t won the championship for quite some time now (they still won the cup in 2015 and 2017). There will be a time when he will have to go. But nobody should take away the great things he has achieved for Arsenal.
“I will always love those years playing for the boss in North London.”
You’ll probably have noticed that Djourou, who now plays for Antalyaspor, still actively supports Arsenal on social media. The 30-year-old is always commenting on the club and players’ posts, retweeting interviews and celebrating wins.
The defender spent 10 years at Arsenal but only made 140 appearances across all competitions.
To be fair, he did go out on loan to Birmingham (2007 – 2008), Hannover 96 (2013) and Hamburger SV (2013 – 2014) who he eventually signed for permanently three years ago. However, he was also injury-prone and not the best defender. In fact, if fans think our defence is bad now, they’ve obviously forgotten the days when our two centre-backs were Djourou and Sébastien Squillaci.
His heart is obviously in the right place, he just wasn’t good enough for Arsenal.
Although, he must be doing something right – Djourou is still in Switzerland’s national team and has been capped 65 times.