Sokratis: Arsenal’s Unsung Hero This Season

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LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20: Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Arsenal controls the ball during the UEFA Europa League Group E match between Arsenal and Vorskla Poltava at Emirates Stadium on September 20, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

After defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea in their opening two Premier League games, things have only gone up for Arsenal. It is six straight wins in the League now and nine overall. One player who has been at the heart of this resurgence is summer signing, Sokratis Papastathopoulos. While many thought his best years to be behind him, the 30-year old has more than held his own since moving to England.

Sokratis is Arsenal’s Unsung Hero This Season

Aggression

Having started the club’s first six league games, he was only left out of the win over Watford due to an injury. While at 30, he may not be best suited to the regular rigors of the often times frenetic Premier League but what he brings to the table is something Arsenal have longed for since their ‘invincible’ years.

His former boss at Borussia Dortmund and current PSG manager, Thomas Tuchel, once described him as “…obsessed with defending. He wants to protect the goal-line no matter what and he’s hungry to face duels”.

The Greek has become the general Unai Emery needed to build his team around. A solid, no-nonsense mammoth of a defender at 1.86m tall and possessing surprisingly good pace. At Dortmund last season, he won 68% of his defensive duels, a figure bettered by only three players in the entire league.

Leader

Another area where Arsenal have lacked in since the glory days has been on-field as well as locker-room leadership.

Sokratis comes in with a proven pedigree with almost 200 games for Dortmund. He captained the Germans in multiple games last season, including in Champions League ties against Tottenham and Real Madrid. Sokratis has been a leader throughout his career, captaining the likes of AEK Athens (at just 19) and then wearing the armband under both Peter Bosz and Peter Stoger during the 2017-18 season for Borussia Dortmund.

Having struggled to settle in the first two games into a new formation at Arsenal, the defender has since made sure to be the first man on the Unai Emery team sheet whenever fit.

Fitness

And that, perhaps, will be the biggest question and worry for Arsenal fans.

A lot will hinge on whether this major summer signing can stay fit throughout the season. He has been a model for consistency for previous clubs in the past but the English fixture list can be as gruelling. He has proven so far to have at least toned down Shkodran Mustafi’s erroneous tendencies. Arsenal fans will be hoping he can have a much larger impact at the club at the heart of their defence.

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