Robbie Earle says that Arsenal’s failure to replace Johan Djourou last season cost them the Premier League title.
The Swiss defender left the Emirates last year to play for Hamburg – who he has since joined on a permanent transfer – and Earle believes that Arsene Wenger’s decision to allow him to leave without bringing in a replacement, combined with their absence of an attacking central-midfielder, was very costly.
The former footballer-turned pundit wrote, in a season-preview for the Guardian: “They lost the title through not replacing Johan Djourou and not having a centre-midfield player to drive and win a game.”
It is a rather bizarre statement to make, given that Djourou has never been a first-team regular at the Gunners during his 11 year stay at the club.
The centre-back, who is now 27, made just 86 Arsenal appearances since joining in 2003 and has regularly been sent out on loan, as Wenger looked to give him opportunities to play elsewhere.
The centre-back position was also one of Arsenal’s strongest last season with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker forming one of the most imposing defensive pairings in the division.
Indeed, the duo managed to keep Thomas Vermaelen, who has now left the Emirates to join Barcelona, out of the team and the Belgian is widely regarded to have significantly more quality than Djourou does.
It is also strange to see Earle blame Arsenal’s lack of a central-midfielder able to drive the game on for their failure to top the league.
The emergence of Aaron Ramsey was one of the biggest positives for Gunners supporters last season – as his 10 Premier League goals in 23 games led to him receiving the player of the season award.
Earle belives that there could be further bad news for the Gunners this season, too, as they still have not sorted out their supposed problem positions – despite bringing in Alexis Sanchez and Calum Chambers in high-profile transfers this summer.
He said: “I’m going against all my principles and my love of Wenger – I think Arsenal are out of the top four.
“This summer they haven’t done any of that business they needed to do, as well as they played in the Community Shield.”
How important was Djourou to Arsenal?