Djourou calls for Arsenal reaction
Johan Djourou has called for Arsenal to put the record straight and show the character of champions by beating Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United at Emirates Stadium tomorrow. The Gunners have seen their own title hopes suffer a fatal blow following a run of only one win from the last seven league games.
Arsenal - now facing a battle to secure third place and automatic UEFA Champions League qualification ahead of FA Cup finalists Manchester City - have not won in front of their own fans since beating Stoke 1-0 on 23 February. Swiss defender Djourou, however, believes there is no better time to get back to winning ways than by halting United's drive towards the title.
"We know our record at home has not been that great lately, because we drew too many games, but we want to put things in order at home," Djourou told Arsenal TV Online. "When Arsenal play our game, no-one can stop us so we have to keep going and fight for each other, to give everything, that is where the difference is. We have done well against the big teams at home, and United are a great team - but we just have to show everyone we are better than them."
When the Gunners beat Stoke, Arsene Wenger's team were fighting for honours on all four fronts. However, a shock defeat in the Carling Cup final at Wembley to Birmingham was swiftly followed by exit from the Champions League against Barcelona in the Nou Camp, before then losing their FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford.
Djourou accepts the team were not able to shake off the disappointment of gifting the Blues a last-minute winner through a defensive blunder as chances of silverware elsewhere then quickly disappeared.
"We need to assess all the little details that makes a difference, but otherwise the team have tried the best shot they can give," said Djourou, now recovered from a dislocated shoulder. "If you look at the mental state of the team, everything changed from when we lost the Carling Cup final, that was a big turning point.
"Before, everything was going well. The team was on fire. We were not losing in the league and had beaten Barcelona at home, then this happened. We were expected to win, maybe too much and got surprised on the day. After we lost the Barcelona game, then at Manchester in the FA Cup, so it was a lot to take. When you are playing for all four trophies and you lose three straight away, it is difficult to take."
Despite the criticism of another season which promised so much failing to deliver, Djourou, 24, insists Arsenal deserve great credit for having mounted any sort of championship challenge. "People were not expecting us to be that close to the title this season," he said
"Of course we are looking for that trophy which everyone wants and deserves, but looking at the bigger picture to be in the Champions League every year is a good achievement because not many teams do that all the time. It is tough to qualify for the Champions League when you look at what the other teams have done. We just have to keep going from here, from strength to strength."
Djourou added: "It is normal with a winning mentality to feel disappointed for the team, now we have to bounce back because things are not really settled yet. Chelsea have got in front of us, and Manchester City are behind, so we just need to keep going. We have big games and need to fight until the end."