Tag Archives: sokratis

David Luiz – An Improvement?

A lot of conversation has taken place in the wake of our active transfer window – and most of that has surrounded our defence.

David Luiz, William Saliba and Kieran Tierney were the defensive additions this summer, but do they constitute what we needed to revitalise our last line of resistance?

Mark Lawrenson recently commented on our purchases and how our backline will cope this coming season. He proffered that while David Luiz is an excellent footballer, he is not an excellent defender.

Harsh criticism? Perhaps, but a lot of experts have spoken about Luiz’s struggles with lining up in a back four and his decent showings in a back three.

The Brazilian is known for his superior technique and ball control, so much so that he has often been utilised in midfield as a sentry figure and one who can distribute the ball.

With William Saliba on loan for the season and very much a figure for the future, we currently have Rob Holding, Sokratis, Calum Chambers, Dinos Mavropanos and Zech Medley as our central defensive units. Do any of them have the missing attributes we have been searching for since Sol Campbell departed the club?

Being Arsenal, our defenders will always be held up to a higher level of scrutiny. We have the highest set of standards because we had what was probably the best defence ever seen in the modern generation. Dixon, Adams, Bould, Keown and Winterburn are part of the fabric of our club and the benchmark.

Since they retired, only Campbell and Toure for a short time have come close to that level. What is the level though?

What is it we need – and do our current crop have it?

The two characteristics we are perceived to lack are consistency and leadership. The consistency can be bred over time and can be achieved with a settled backline. So that is very much up in the air. Plus, we have defenders who have shown they can perform over a stretch of games. Sokratis last season hardly put a foot wrong. Rob Holding before his injury was a revelation.

Then there is the leadership quandary. A leader can be someone who leads by example. Laurent Koscielny was one of these. Then you have leaders who rangle their troops together vocally and by the way they deal with adversity. A stout heart and a puffed out chest.

Do we have that?

Sokratis seems an obvious choice on that front, but Luiz has always been a candidate at every club he has been at. Perhaps giving him the armband is a bit much, but can he show the younger players the right way? Can he bring the best out of his teammates? That would be a yes.

Luiz was a regular for the majority of his times at Chelsea and at PSG. That doesn’t happen by accident. While his best years may be behind him, the short term acquisition gives us a body that can cover us more than adequately.

David Luiz signs

Harking back to the titans of the past is a fruitless exercise, aside from the sweet pangs of nostalgia. A lot of our defence can be our approach to the game, and a more adaptable midfield who can track back and press attacks – so Guendouzi, Ceballos, Xhaka and Willock have a lot of pressure on their shoulders too.

For now, we can look upon our signings positively, and our squad seems well stocked in all regions. Players like Luiz will help us far more than the experts seem to think he will, and his struggles in a back four have been exacerbated a tad.

The bottom line is that will he improve on Mustafi? That is a definite yes!

Bellerin For Captain?

Last season saw plenty of changes in what was Unai Emery’s first season in charge.

We saw the constant switching between three and five at the back. We saw the first eleven tinkered with in order to find that special slice of chemistry. We saw our press activate and disengage within minutes.

All signs of a fledgling regime, but another change was very much up for questioning.

The decision to grant the captains armband to Laurent Koscielny, Petr Cech, Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil was examined closely by all and sundry. With Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech missing out on chunks of the season through injury and selection reasons, it left three men leading the team out for the majority.

Granit Xhaka, love him or loath him, is one of the few who show true leadership qualities on the field and warranted the captaincy, and Aaron Ramsey’s association with the club was a lengthy one and he held the respect of his teammates.

Mesut Ozil perhaps was awarded the armband on occasion to give him the confidence he desired, a clear signal of intent that he was needed and had a specific role to play. Lead by example, show the others what they need to do.

Did the decision to split captaincy responsibilities work?

That depends who you ask, but it could be a work in progress.

What about next season though?

With both Cech and Ramsey both having left the club, it leaves three from last season who wore the armband.

When you take into consideration that official club captain Laurent Koscielny has gone on strike to engineer a move away from Arsenal?

That whittles it down to two.

Mesut Ozil is not a typical captain, but will command the respect from his comrades, but are there others who would be leaders and could help elevate performance with their own take on what captains should do on the pitch.

One candidate who has been spoken about at length is Hector Bellerin.

skysports-hector-bellerin-arsenal_4414835.jpg

The Spaniard has been with the club since 2013 and counts as a homegrown player. His affection for the club is evident through his social media activity and his desire on and off the pitch has driven him to great things.

Just look at how he took to Emery’s new regime at the start, before his horror injury. He was one of the standout performers, one that took his game to the next level. He was a massive threat up top, facilitating our attackers, and his defensive side had tightened considerably.

He could command the eleven and ensure instructions are carried out. He is the ideal middle man, a conduit between Emery and his men.

Bellerin is due to return from injury early in the season, and stands alone in regard to the right-back spot. Maitland-Niles did an admirable job last season filling in and has done his future at the club no harm whatsoever, but Bellerin will no doubt pick up where he left off.

Sokratis is another player who could lead the players, but in terms of style, it would be a more vocal approach from the Greek – and Bellerin has plenty of years in the tank yet to push his legacy at the club. Sokratis is more of a short-term fillip we need to hold our defence together.

Hector’s values align with our own, he is progressive and he wants the club to achieve – he cares. Isn’t that fundamentally what pushes all captains?

Bellerin is one of the few players who is intrinsically linked with the fibre of the club woven deep. He will wear the armband with pride and rightfully so. He will deserve it. Age is just  a number, Bellerin has earned the shot to lead the team out – and it could be a masterstroke.

Emery and His Summer Plans

It is irrefutable that Unai Emery has helped us make progress this season.

It is also undeniable that he has made errors that have cost us.

The Spaniard is not infallible, and our suspect away form and some questionable decisions when it comes to rotation have been the difference when it comes to certain results this campaign.

It is very important that Emery isn’t hung, drawn and quartered by his mistakes, and while the jury may be out for some, his approach has certainly added more than it has subtracted.

How does Emery help us go one step further though? Next season should see us go into the season with a top 3 position firmly in our sights. With Manchester United still rebuilding and unsure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s long-term suitability, it should put us on a firmer footing than the Red Devils.

Then there are Chelsea and spurs.

The Blues will be suffering from a transfer ban so cannot strengthen. They have Christian Pulisic to come in and perhaps some of their loanees could come in to fill a gap, but with Eden Hazard’s head turned by Real Madrid and no avenue to replace such a talent, Chelsea could easily be weaker than this season. Then there is the small matter of Maurizio Sarri and if he will even be at Stamford Bridge next season.

Spurs will be thankful to keep hold of Mauricio Pochettino, but transfer funds will need to be freed up if they want to continue their upward curve. Despite all of the brass band sounding and the fawning from the media, they are further away from the title than ever and their trophy cabinet is still emptier than Chris Sutton’s IQ.

The stage is set for us to move up and re-establish ourselves amongst the elite, perhaps even put some pressure on the top2 – although the gap is a sizeable one.

It all hinges on what Emery does in the transfer market – well, he and his new Director of Football that will be coming in.

His first summer at Arsenal saw more success than failure when it came to additions. For every Stephane Lichtsteiner, we had a Matteo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira and Bernd Leno. Sokratis too, has enjoyed a solid first season.

We need more though.

 

Xhaka and Iwobi

We have the large aperture created by Aaron Ramsey’s departure to fill. That requires an intelligent attacking midfielder who has a wide range of passing and is blessed with a deft touch for intricate link-up play.

That won’t be cheap.

Then there is the small matter of our defence and midfield.

Our club captain is in his latter years, as is Nacho Monreal. That is two integral parts of our first choice defence with a significantly lower chance of contributing the same amount of matches next season.

Yes, we do have Rob Holding returning, and with Calum Chambers coming back into the fray, we POTENTIALLY have the makings of a solid core. It is still untested though, and Emery will run the rule over them as a duo in pre-season.

If it doesn’t work, then that is another dip into the transfer coffers – an amount that according to hearsay, is not sufficient enough for two world-class additions.

In midfield, in Torreira and Guendouzi we have our near future looking decent, but two midfielders doesn’t make a midfield. We need alternative options to enable Emery’s famous switching of approach, we need able backups as the season wears fitness thin and inflates fatigue.

In that regard, we can see that Mohamed Elneny isn’t quite up to scratch, and Granit Xhaka has already made noises about seeking new pastures. Much will hinge on Champions League qualification on whether the Swiss star stays, but he isn’t the complete player we need.

So we could maybe need two central players to come in, one more established to push the first team and another prospect that can help our team in years to come.

Our attack is in decent health. If we had players like Henrikh Mkhitaryan hitting the heights their obvious talent allows them to, then we would be all set for next season. But the Armenian and Alex Iwobi now need to step up and make a difference far more frequently than they do currently if we are to push on next season. If they fail to do so, then Arsenal is a stage that isn’t best suited to them.

 

Furious Emery

 

The potential for quite a busy summer looms large on our horizon. One that involves deeper pockets than our short arms can reach, and some tough calls on players futures.

If we are to move up and get back into contention, Emery and his backroom team will have their phones on during their summer break. Excellence doesn’t rest.

An Unhealthy Dose Of Cynicism

Featured in The Gooner Fanzine

In his post-match interview with the media, Burnley boss was asked to comment on his thoughts after Arsenal had earned a 3-1 win at The Emirates over his side.

The gravel-throated manager chose this platform to vent his feelings over what he felt was unjust refereeing decisions.

Dyche referenced the fact his team have waited more than 60 games for a penalty, and that the push on Kevin Long in the penalty area from behind – which caused Long to fall backwards instead of forwards and thus defy the laws of physics – should have resulted in a spot kick for the Clarets.

Most interestingly though, was his slightly skewed version of events regarding his striker, Ashley Barnes.

Barnes had enjoyed a running battle with our centre-half, Sokratis. Both had been guilty of fouls and both were booked. One player remained calm though, in the face of rising heat on the pitch, whereas another chose to vent in a nefarious manner – which was to stamp on the grounded Matteo Guendouzi.

Dyche didn’t bring this up, surprisingly, but did say that Barnes got elbowed in the face.

Barnes and Sokraits

 

Dyche bemoaning the physical reciprocation that the Gunners dished out is akin to a zookeeper covering himself in meat and crying about being mauled by the tigers. Dyche and his Clarets side enjoyed a seventh placed finish last campaign that was built on a robust defence and a midfield that wouldn’t back down an iota. These tactics don’t lean toward unlocking defences through the majesty of football, but through wearing down an opponent.

It ain’t pretty, but it can be effective. Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis have forged careers on the back of such an approach – but at what point does a fierce will to win and a penchant for gamesmanship turn into an enemy of the beautiful game?

When does physicality become too overbearing and to the detriment of the match and the spectators?

Every team needs an element of sh*thousery. When we signed Stephane Lichtsteiner and Sokratis this summer, we celebrated their arrival as it heralded an end to the naivety and innocence that has been the nadir of many seasons hopes in the past.

These players know when to waste time, when to make that crucial professional foul, in order to gain an advantage, no matter how small. Grappling in the box, a shirt tug here, a flick of the boot there – we needed players who had a handle on the darker arts of the game.

It has helped us – but the approach from Burnley was much more than this.

Dyche may have been surprised that we fought back, and that was a springboard for the three points. In the past, we may have crumpled like a cheap suit in the face of some of the challenges, but instead, we grafted.

We also didn’t let it descend into the brawl that Burnley wanted. So, instead of trying to play their way out, they just kicked us harder. So we went down under challenges, we broke up play, we kept possession.

Barnes and Guendouzi

 

The fact Barnes was even on the pitch to score the away team’s consolation goal was a mystery – as was the fact that MOTD chose not to highlight his assault on the young Guendouzi. Credit to the Frenchman, he could have reacted – if you’re stamped on, that would be what is on your mind – but he didn’t, and instead gave his all with the ball.

Burnley and Dyche are hypocritical if they are whinging about how often we went down and the fact they don’t get enough decisions in their favour. By the way they acted during their loss to us, match officials will be too busy keeping tabs on the amount of fouls they make.

They were the aggressors, they were the ones who decided they wanted the game to be a brawl. When we choose to go to ground under a foul instead of turning round and starting a fight, or even gamely trying to carry on? We did that to frustrate them, and it worked. Just like they rocked up to The Emirates to frustrate us – but our newly found maturity under Emery was the perfect antidote.

There is a time and a place for pure physical tactics, but to use them as the bedrock of your whole gameplan? You will eventually get found out. There’s always someone bigger and harder than you.

Sokratis – Just What We Needed

Arsene Wenger’s final season in charge was blighted by poor form, which led to his lowest ever finish as Arsenal boss.

This was a symptom of a brittle weakness that saw us carved open by teams who smelled blood, pouring from our soft underbelly. Teams who had no right, on paper, to destroy us in the manner that they did.

It was our defence, from monitoring runs in midfield through to naive offside traps, woeful zonal marking and a general lack of organisation. This was the culprit that saw Wenger’s reign end in such circumstances.

The very same players are available to Unai Emery in his first match in charge. Both men couldn’t be more contrasting in their approach, and one thing that can fill us with optimism is the Spaniard’s dedication to looking at our opponents.

Still, all the video’s in the world looking at the minutiae of another team’s attack won’t be of any use if the personnel expected to act on Emery’s commands are inept.

Laurent Koscielny is 32 and will be out for the first half of the season through injury.

Shkodran Mustafi has strengths, but in terms of organisation and maintaining concentration he very much failed last season.

Konstandinos Mavropanos looks a real steal, but has made just a handful of appearances. A dip will come, and we don’t know when, how long it will last, or what it could cost us. One for the future.

Rob Holding had a fantastic debut season, but last season showed how far he still has to go before he makes it. Looks increasingly likely to go on loan to get the first team games he needs.

Then there is Calum Chambers. The England prospect looked to be on borrowed time until the latter half of last season, but Chambers excelled when called upon, and an extended contract is a symbol of the faith placed upon him. He looked to be the chosen one to lead this defence forward – but if he is, he’ll have to wait until next season after going on loan to Fulham for the campaign.

Sokratis at former club BVB

Sokratis Papastathopoulos is a recruit straight from the contacts book of a certain Sven Mislintat. The former Dortmund man is a seasoned veteran in terms of seasons spent in the top flight, having been with BVB for five seasons. Before that, he was at Werder Bremen for three seasons.

Interestingly, he was at AC Milan for two seasons, having been bought after impressing at Genoa. He made just five appearances in two years at the San Siro however, but what it does show is that he has experience from different leagues, which only serves to highlight why he will be so important.

Sokratis is now thirty years old. It means he will be our first choice centre back for probably a maximum of three to four years. What he can teach Holding and Mavropanos though, is invaluable. He has the potential to be a real hit in the teaching stakes, and the kids could soar next to such a grizzled warrior.

Sokratis is aerially strong and isn’t too rash either, something we can level at a host of other defenders in our past, and perhaps in our present. The partnership with Mustafi perhaps has shades of Campbell and Toure about it, with each defender performing different tasks. While Mustafi may not have the pace of Toure in his pomp, he is more than athletic, and is no slouch, as shownoften in recovering some messes he created himself in his time with us.

Sokratis has the physical edge we have been looking for, and he also is one who knows the seedier part of the game, a cynical slant, which will wipe the happiness from strikers faces, as opposed to before when they held no fear.

This signing is exactly what we need. Sokratis may only have a limited amount of miles on the clock, but if used right, and with the right partner, this could be a stroke of genius from our recruitment team.

Sokratis Signs For Arsenal – Here’s What To Know About Our New Defender

Sokratis Papastathopoulos has finally signed on the dotted line for Arsenal, after a delay in officially announcing the defender.

In what must be one of the worst kept secrets in recent transfer windows, Sokratis has signed and been declared a Gunner after joining from Borussia Dortmund after five years with the German club – for a fee thought to be around 17.7m.
The 30 year old was officially declared by the club yesterday, but what do we know about our new defender?


Well, we know that former Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel has said Sokratis is ‘obsessed’ by defending, and that he is Vice Captain for Greece. He was at Werder Bremen before joining BVB, and has a fixation on the backline perhaps thanks to his time in Italy with AC Milan and Genoa.

Sokratis joins Bernd Leno and Stephane Lichtsteiner as Arsenal new boys this summer, and will also join up with former Dortmund teammates Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A sure fire sign that Sven Mislintat is involved heavily in the recent recruitment process.

Sokratis revealed to the Arsenal media team he had spoken to his former comrades about joining, saying “I spoke to them a lot. They said to me the best thing about the club is that it’s one big family and of course they called me a lot of times telling me to come here.”

Sokratis, when asked about his thoughts on his new club, said “Arsenal is one of the biggest three teams in the Premier League, and one very big club. It has a lot of fans and a big history.. I’m very happy to be here to help the team.”

Sokratis is another recruited player from this summer that ticks the ‘experienced’ box. With Stephane Lichtsteiner also in the 30 and over bracket and with heaps of top flight and international experience, It would seem Arsenal’s new boss is focusing on making an immediate impact, rather than looking to making a splash in the future.

It is also a big plus, as we have all been able to see we need a steady hand at the back with leadership qualities – especially when the ship is rocking. With both Lichtsteiner and Sokratis in the backline, we will have that reassuring influence that we have been wanting for quite some time.

With Laurent Koscielny out until at least December, it gives Calum Chambers and Sokratis time to gel and forge what could be an impregnable bedrock. The Greek defender can also help his Greek compatriot who shone briefly toward the end of last season and is another Sven Mislintat recruit – Konstandinos Mavropanos.

Sokratis ‘ main strength is his physicality, and his obsessive desire for clean sheets, which sees him put his body on the line when the pressure is on – something he will expect from his teammates. He is also half decent in the air at the back and on set-pieces, although his goal ratio is hardly prolific, with only eight goals in nearly 200 appearances for Dortmund, Bremen and AC Milan.

Our new recruit will give us immediate resources at the back and could be an astute signing and a valuable player for our defence, who sorely needed a player of his stature in some hairy moments last season.

Welcome to Arsenal, our new Number 5 – Sokratis!