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Johan Djourou: 'Arsène is like my second dad. He gave a little guy so much confidence'

The former Arsenal defender on his time in north London, a nomadic career since and why he is so impressed with his forward-thinking new club in Denmark, FC Nordsjælland

Johan Djourou could sense someone in pursuit as he walked off the training pitch towards the end of his trial at Arsenal. He turned round and there was Arsène Wenger, typically hands-on, at pains to plan the future of a relatively obscure hopeful from Geneva. “So, how do we sign you?” Wenger asked. The 15-year-old Djourou suggested Wenger should speak to his parents and his club, Étoile Carouge. “Fine,” came the reply. “I really think you can do something special in England.”

In many ways Djourou did, thanks in no small part to the manager’s trust. He played 144 times for Arsenal and, were it not for injury, that number would be significantly higher. When he departed in 2014, nearly a decade after his senior debut, he was their longest-serving player; a thoughtful and considered soul who had watched Wenger’s last great team break up and become a major part of the prodigiously gifted, but ultimately flawed, generation that sought to succeed them.

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