The reason for Arsenal’s drop out of the top four last season, and thus missing out on UEFA Champions League football this season, is crystal clear to every Arsenal and non-Arsenal fan – their defence. Is Sokratis the man to sort that out?
The Gunners’ defence was in shambles last season, and statistics speak for it. Among the top six Premier League team last season, The Londoners conceded the most goals, 51. Among the top ten Premier League teams last season, Arsene Wenger’s men conceded the third highest goals, only behind Leicester City (60) and Everton (58). Even Burnley (39) and newly promoted Newcastle United (47) had a better defensive record than the North London club.
Thus, it was evident that in which area the team needed to spend big. As soon as the transfer window opened and the board brought in Unai Emery to replace Arsene Wenger, the North Londoners began their search for new defensive recruitments.
Soon, came four stand-out players, centre-back Sokratis Papasthopoulos for €16 million from Borussia Dortmund, seasoned right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer from Juventus, goalkeeper Bernd Leno for €25 million from Bayer Leverkusen, and defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira for €30 million from Sampdoria.
However, with both the new defenders at the wrong side of 30, the question thus arose in the minds of the Arsenal faithful if their new signings would be able to keep up with the pressure of the English league and the ‘Arsenal way’. Sokratis cleared these ever-growing cloud of questions.
Sokratis: "In football, the defender is there to defend. A lot of coaches and a lot of teams now look only how to play, not how to defend. I am here to show that I am, first of all, a defender." pic.twitter.com/w4wTzqthfB
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) July 30, 2018
“Thirty is the best age for a defender, so for the next three or four years I would like to give everything for the team,” the Greek defender ensured.
“I want to win with this team. With Borussia, with Milan, with Genoa, for 10 years now I have been outside Greece and of course I have experience.
“I feel very good and I’m working on the pitch and also off the pitch to help all the young guys to be very good with us.
“I learned a lot and now I am ready to give what I know. I am here to show I am first a defender and after that comes everything else.”
Sokratis: "I'm here to show I am first a defender & after that comes everything else. Of course you have to know how to play with the ball, in the last 5 or 6 years football has changed a lot. A lot of coaches & a lot of teams now look at only how to play, not how to defend" #afc pic.twitter.com/vzW9jSJxLY
— Gurjit (@GurjitAFC) July 28, 2018
Sokratis also shed some light on new head coach Emery’s methods of work, especially on the defensive front, and how he and the other defenders, alongwith Emery, are working hard to ensure that Arsenal are more defensively stable.
“A lot of coaches and a lot of teams now look at only how to play, not how to defend,” he said.
“But with the new coach we work also on the situations when we don’t have the ball and this is very important. On the first day, the coach worked on this.
With him, all the players we work on tactics, we look a lot at videos, what was wrong, what we have to do better.
“I think and hope this year things at the back will be much better.“
Sokratis on Emery's focus on defence: "All the players work on tactics with him. We look a lot of times at videos, what we have to do better. We work also on the situations when we don't have the ball. I think this year things at the back will be much better." pic.twitter.com/KYPjaKmqCY
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) July 30, 2018
With new defenders arriving at the Emirates, the Arsenal defence this season will have a new look as compared to last season. The new gaffer will likely play a four-man defence, as compared to last season’s three-man defence used by Wenger at times.
After Shkodran Mustafi’s questionable performances last season for the Gunners, the fans will be banking on Sokratis to uplift his confidence and to show his critics why Arsenal paid €35m for the German centre-back. Looking at his performances in the pre-season, especially against Atlético Madrid in the International Champions Cup, the Spanish boss can be confident that this season will be better than last season, at least in terms of defence.
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