After a battling display at Old Trafford, which saw a hard working, gritty performance undone by an unfortunate goal, Arsenal were desperate to show they could deliver a performance of fight and finesse at home. In Chelsea they faced a side low on confidence but also one who have also often been their nemesis over the last few seasons.
One possible factor in the contrasting fortunes of the team in these two fixtures is the central defensive partnerships employed.
Since the loss of their best defender, Thomas Vermaelen, in September, Arsenal have played 24 games. During this period of time, Arsene Wenger has toyed with different combinations in the centre of defence.
In the Premiership, Wenger started off pairing new signings Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci, swapping in Johan Djourou for Champions League and Carling Cup games. Due to a couple of suspensions for Koscielny, Djourou has also been used as cover for some of the Premier League games as well.
The statistics for these 24 games make an interesting read when you examine the games featuring Johan Djourou and those that do not.
The statistics show that Squillaci and Koscielny have conceded 16 goals in their 12 games and won just five games (win ratio of 42 percent). In contrast, when Djourou has featured in the side, Arsenal have conceded nine goals and lost just two games (win ratio of 83 percent).
During the games when Djourou has been playing, the team have kept four clean sheets and conceded more than one goal just once, whereas without Djourou the team has kept one clean sheet and conceded more than one goal on four occasions.
Statistics can often blur perceptions, and Djourou has arguably been employed in easier games, particularly in the Carling Cup and playing some of the lesser Champions League opponents. It would also be naïve to suggest that Arsenal’s defensive frailties can be solved by simply playing Djourou.
It is also relevant that the Swiss International has significantly more experience, both in the Premiership and at International level than Koscielny. In particular, he has played over 80 games for Arsenal and 25 for Switzerland.
In most instances when looking at the three centre backs currently available to Arsenal, you would assume Djourou would be the first choice. However, several seasons of injury and the price tags of the new signings appear to have relegated him to third choice.
Wenger may not believe in statistics, but after another solid performance from the young Swiss defender, he may realize that Djourou is finally be maturing into the perfect partner for Thomas Vermaelen.
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