Sorry about the title, but I can’t resist a good pun if possible. Misleading as it might be, I must stress that I am not saying Johan Djourou deserves any credit for his performance against Manchester United.
However, for all the criticism surrounding Arsene Wenger for his choice to remove Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain just as he’d made our equaliser and was at the centre of everything good we were doing, a rather more bold move by the boss has gone largely ignored: replacing the more experienced Djourou, terrible as he was, for Premier League debutant Nico Yennaris, a move that proved more successful than bringing on Andrey Arshavin later.
Djourou might not be a right-back, I think we all know that now, but he should be quite ashamed of a display like that. Right-back or not, he’s still a defender, but he didn’t do any defending of any kind against Nani, Evra and Giggs, who were destroying us down his side for the entire first half. Nani’s poor decision-making was all that saved us from being 3-0 down at the break.
Still, when you bring on a teenager who hasn’t played at this level before you never know what you’re going to get, as talented as they might look in the Reserves or in lower pressure cup games, so well done to Wenger for giving Yennaris a chance. As the Chamberlain substitution showed later, Arsene is one who likes to stick to a plan, regardless of what is happening right in front of him on the pitch. He is also one who doesn’t like to “kill” his players’ confidence, but taking Djourou off at half time was quite a statement.
I don’t know how near a return Sagna or Jenkinson are, but Yennaris’ performance in the second half can give us at least a little more confidence in that position for the time being. United had nowhere near the same kind of joy down our right-hand side in the second half.
For all the talk about too many young players over the years, Arsenal fans and bloggers have also rightly pointed out that on many occasion it has actually been the experienced players who have let us down. In recent times the likes of Rosicky, Arshavin, Gallas and Clichy have come under criticism for not doing enough to help the youngsters around them.
So if Chamberlain and Yennaris look like better options than Arshavin and Djourou, so be it. Let’s hope Wenger will resist the urge to rest these youngsters when they really don’t need it.
On a separate note – I very much expected Chelsea to splash the cash this January, and worried this would give them the edge over us in the race for fourth. So far, only Gary Cahill has been brought in. I’m sure he’ll be a good signing, but they are still desperately lacking upfront and on the wings.
As much as I’d love to see us make some much-needed signings as well, it quite clearly isn’t going to happen, so it’s a relief there hasn’t been much movement at Stamford Bridge either. Things are bad at the moment, but we’re not so far behind them that we can’t pip them to the final Champions League spot.
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