'Now the whole team defends' - Djourou hails influence of Bould at Arsenal

The centre-back concedes the team's recent defensive solidity is largely down to the club's new assistant manager and is looking forward to challenging for a starting spot
Arsenal defender Johan Djourou has hailed the impact new assistant manager Steve Bould has had on the team.

Renowned for their woeful defensive record last season, the Gunners have been rock steady at the back at the start of the new campaign, only conceding twice in their opening five league matches.

And Switzerland star Djourou has attributed this new-found solidity to the introduction of Bould into first-team affairs, since Pat Rice’s retirement over the summer.

He told the Mirror: “Pat Rice was great, but because of the way Steve played the game, it’s just a massive positive for us.

“Steve works on team shape. With Arsenal, people have always blamed the defence for our problems, which I have always felt has been pretty harsh.

“With Steve joining Mr Wenger, it is not only the defence that protects the team - it starts from the front.

“Our midfielders, Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby, have been doing a great job protecting the defence and that’s what you need at this level.

“The guys are also working hard up front.

"Now it is the whole team that defends. There is a massive difference now to what we had before.”

As one of Arsenal’s longest serving players now, Djourou is understandably delighted with the team’s solid foundation and  believes the style is reminiscent of the days of the Invincibles.

“I’ve been at the club a long time and you have to go back to when Patrick Vieira was with us for when we last had that kind of platform," he added.

“We are gaining that back now. We’ve got that kind of stability all over the pitch.

“Steve is a great coach and, to be honest, I believe we can achieve some big things with our manager and with him.
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“He [Bould] was my first manager in the U-15s and U-17s and I have always had a great respect for him.”

The 25-year-old spent most of last season playing as a makeshift right-back in the absence of usual starter Bacary Sagna but insists his main focus is on making a claim for one of the centre-back positions.

This will be a difficult task after the recent form of Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny but Djourou claims he is ready for the competition.

“People have forgotten that I am not a right-back. I took a lot of criticism last year for that, because I was playing out of position," he explained

“As a player, I didn’t complain about being right-back because I am a team player - I would do anything for my team, for my manager and for my club.

“But the criticism has made me stronger.

"We already have three great defenders in Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, but I am ready to play and the competition is good.”