Arsenal cruised to a two goal victory over Wolverhampton who could not cope with the quality of the Gunners. Robin van Persie scored both the goals taking his tally for the season to 12 goals only two behind the leading goal-scorer of the season for Arsenal, Samir Nasri. The Gunners kept another clean sheet which will be a huge boost to their confidence ahead of the tough encounter against FC Barcelona who are amongst the best teams in the world.
After conceding four goals within half an hour against Newcastle, it was important that there were no defensive lapses for the Gunners and that they could gain all the three points from their impressive display which could have seen many more goals but for the heroics of Wayne Hennessey. Wojciech Szczesny said after the disastrous second half against Newcastle that the substitution of Johan Djourou caused an imbalance in the side.
Arsenal supporters were hugely relieved by news that the injury to Djourou was not serious and he would be able to start the game against Wolves. The Gunners' best defensive performances this season have been when Djourou has started games for them. With the injury to Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal needed the two new signings Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci to come good to keep their title aspirations alive.
However, it has been the performances of Djourou which has provided the Gunners with a solid base to perform better. The Swiss International has established a superb partnership with Laurent Koscielny and the duo have been good when played together. However Koscielny seems to be extremely uncomfortable when playing alongside Squillaci.
Who should partner Thomas Vermaelen when the Belgian returns to full fitness?
Though Wenger spent around £10 million on Koscielny, it is probable that it will be Djourou who will partner Vermaelen when the latter returns to full fitness. Though he started the season as the fourth choice centre back, the quality of his performances has made Wenger install him as the first choice centre back in the absence of the Belgian.
Djourou has been at Arsenal for a long time and at the age of 24; he is proving that he has the quality to be a starter for the Gunners for years to come. However, the road has not been smooth for the defender and he has worked hard to come back from the injury which threatened to derail his Arsenal career.
Though the Ivorian born player has been at the club for a long time, he was not considered to be the first choice centre back and his quality was questioned by a number of critics. But it is credit to Djourou that he has shown a willingness to wait and has trusted his manager to give him the opportunity he deserves. Wenger has a lot of faith in him and even said to him that he had let the solid Kolo Toure leave the club to provide more opportunities for him.
He is currently enjoying a superb run of games for Arsenal and his performances have made him one of the key players of the season for the Gunners. His progress to the first team has similarities with Alex Song whose credentials to play as the defensive midfielder were questioned by many.
The Cameroon International has developed immensely under the keen eyes of Wenger and has vastly improved over the last couple of seasons. Song made the role of the defensive midfielder his own last season and this season; he has shown that he is a complete player by providing good offensive threat along with his effectiveness in defensive midfield.
Song has established his place in the Arsenal first team and is one of the regulars if fit. He has also won over the Arsenal supporters who regard him to be as important as Cesc Fabregas or Robin van Persie and his commitment to the club has been excellent as well. Djourou's progress this season could undoubtedly be the sign of things to come and he has the quality to be Arsenal's first choice defensive centre-back for the future.
This article is also featured on The Invincible Gunners, a blog on Arsenal and other football news.