x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Djourou: Cup final defeat hurt us

Defender says the loss to Birmingham has hit Arsenal's confidence since.

Johan Djourou, left, says Arsenal's season has gone downhill since they lost against Birmingham City on February 27. Mike Egerton / Empics
Johan Djourou, left, says Arsenal's season has gone downhill since they lost against Birmingham City on February 27. Mike Egerton / Empics

LONDON // Johan Djourou says Arsenal's season never really recovered from their shock defeat to Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final at the end of February.

Arsenal have not won in front of their own fans since beating Stoke 1-0 on February 23 and now face a battle to secure third place and automatic Champions League qualification ahead of FA Cup finalists Manchester City.

They are five points ahead of fourth-placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand.

When the Gunners beat Stoke, Arsene Wenger's team were fighting for honours on all four fronts.

However, the 2-1 Carling Cup final defeat 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 against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Djourou, the Swiss defender, said that the disappointment of gifting Birmingham a last-minute winner through a defensive blunder hit his team hard.

"We need to assess all the little details that make a difference, but otherwise the team have tried the best shot they can give," Djourou, now recovered from a dislocated shoulder, told Arsenal TV Online.

"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's difficult to take."

Djourou believes there is no better time to get back to winning ways than by halting United's drive towards the title today when the teams clash at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal have seen their own title hopes suffer a fatal blow following a run of only one win from the last seven league games.

"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 said.

"When Arsenal play our game, no one can stop us. 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."