By Jake Cutler
Back in 2004, aged 17 – Johan Djourou made his debut for Arsenal in a 3-1 victory against Everton in the League Cup, however it wasn’t until the next season that he made his Premier League debut. After this, in 2006 he made 30 appearances throughout the season as a centre back but also had a patchy career at Arsenal, which was often plagued by inconsistencies and injuries. As a result, sometimes he would make a handful of league appearances per season and was also loaned out to the likes of Birmingham City and Hamburger SV.
In short, without being critical of Djourou, he is a typical player during the era when Arsenal had just moved to The Emirates from Highbury. This was a rough transition period that saw the club go without trophies for several years. Even today, you could argue they are still playing catch up after the move. Sadly for Djourou, it wasn’t just Arsenal where he failed to win any silverware, he also didn’t win anything else after his time in North London. This was a man that sometimes partnered Cesc Fabregas in the middle too.
So, what happened next for the defensive Swiss player? In 2014 he left Arsenal making 86 appearances in 10 years. He then moved permanently to Hamburger SV where he remained for three seasons. Arguably, this was his finest spell as a player, as he was a regular in the German side and even became captain. Perhaps his best role at the club was playing in their relegation play-off clash against Karlsruher in which Hamburger SV won. Sadly, once again Djourou’s true potential was never really reached with Hamburger SV. Like much of his time at Arsenal, injuries often stunted his progress and kept him from reaching any consistency.
After leaving Hamburger SV, he then went to Turkey and joined Antalyaspor, now aged 30. It was here, where things started to go downhill for Djourou and essentially meant the beginning of the end. Like so many previous footballers before him, Djourou traveled to Turkey to revitalize his career. However, Turkey is sometimes considered a bit of a graveyard for footballers and can often represent one last payday. After making 18 appearances for Antalyaspor, he then played for five different teams across five different seasons. During this period, Djourou made a total of just 38 appearances.
Just last week on Twitter, he announced that he was extremely proud and happy to retire from football. He left the game having played 318 club appearances and 76 appearances for Switzerland. So, was Djourou a case of ‘what could have been’? The answer to this is a resounding yes. Whilst he wasn’t the greatest player ever, he was typical of Arsenal’s academy, meaning he could play very well. This was a rare combination with a 6’3 defender who was also technical and good on the ball. A highlight of his career was one particular game against Barcelona for Arsenal which showed his potential.
As mentioned throughout, injuries got the better of Djourou and halted his progress. This is a sad story that happens too often in football. Instead of winning a number of trophies, he ended up retiring aged 34 and is a case of what could have been.
This is Jake’s second article for Far Post Header. I hope you enjoyed reading it!