Tag Archives: Sokratis

Arsenal sign proper defender

After the free transfer of Stephan Lichtsteiner from Juventus, and German keeper Bern Leno, Arsenal have finally completed the deal taking Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Borussia Dortmund to North London.

The Greek international centre back becomes the 3rd ex-Dortmund player to join the club since the appoint of Sven Mislintat – joining January signings Henrikh Mkhitaryan & Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The 30 year old defender brings with him a wealth of experience.

Having started his career in Greece, he became AEK’s youngest-ever captain, at age 19. A move to Genoa in Italy followed, before he joined AC Milan at 21 for €14 million.

A year later, due to the complexity of deals in Italy, Sokratis returned to Genoa as part of a 8 man deal to solve player ownership issues between the two clubs.

Genoa immediately sold him to Werder Bremen, before Mislintat recruitment him to Dortmund.

After 7 years playing first team football in the Bundesliga, and 79 international caps for Greece, Arsenal are signing the experienced leader at the back we have lacked in recent years.

Raphael Honigstein, a self titled ‘German football expert’ explained recently what Arsenal are going to get:

“They liked his attitude, he’s a fighter, he’s a warrior but not too great on the ball. By and large, not the kind of player that gets you excited. Very tidy, very energetic, tough in a tackle, but I’m not sure he’s necessarily going to take the Arsenal defence to the next level.”

Reading it through, the first half gets you excited. We have lacked a fighter, a warrior at the back. Someone who is tidy and energetic, tough in the tackle. Someone who sees defending as the most important job for a centre back. Not trying to bring the ball out.

In the current era of football, we all seem obsessed about ball playing centre backs. The likes of John Stones. And sides seem too willing to ignore the dirty side of the game, the actual defending.

What is odd is Honigstein then says he is not “going to take the Arsenal defence to the next level.”

This is where Honigstein shows he is perhaps shows that whilst he might be an expert on German football, he is perhaps not an expert on what Arsenal. He has inadvertently described exactly what the Gunners have desperately needed for a few years.

When was the last time we had a tough tackling centre back? A fighter? A warrior at the back? Someone happy sticking the ball into row Z rather then trying to bring it down and play?

Look back at the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid. Would Antoine Greizmann have scored the equaliser in Islington if we had Sokratis at the back rather than Laurent Koscielny?

The Arsenal captain tried to bring the ball down and turn Griezmann in one move. He could have easily passed it back to David Ospina, or hoofed the ball out of play for a throw in or corner. Koscielny wanted to do the sexy stuff, not the dirty stuff. Sokratis would have cleared that ball.

Sokratis former manager at Dortmund, and Unai emery’s replacement at PSG Thomas Tuchel said  “He’s a little obsessed with defending. He wants to protect the goal-line no matter what and he’s hungry to face duels,”

“The defensive work that Sokratis puts in is just unbelievable,” added former team mate Mats Hummels.

A warrior, a fighter, tough in the tackle, obsessed with defending, keeping that clean sheet. Unbelievable defensive work. Honigstein might not get too excited about this sort of work, but just typing it out is making me wet.

Arsenal are signing a proper defender; not a footballer who can defend, not a ball-playing centre-half, not a converted midfielder, but an actual defender who loves to defend.

It should be exactly the kind of signing that gets Arsenal fans excited.

Since the turn of the year, only Manchester City have scored more Premier League goals than an Arsenal side significantly strengthened by the signings of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan, and the return from injury to Alexandre Lacazette.

Previously I mentioned on Twitter how excited we would be if Aubameyang was the first signing of the Emery era. Now he is sexy, someone to get excited about. But he joined in January and the 6 months of Premier League football coupled with no world cup will result in him being ready to go in August.

Whilst the likes of the Lichtsteiner and Sokratis might feel a little underwhelming in contrast, you have to look at the bigger picture.

Are Arsenal stronger than they were when the transfer window closed in August 2017?

It is clear that head of recruitment Mislintat has a picture in his head of what he is doing at Arsenal, and improving the defence is clearly a priority.

Honigstein went on to say that it was “a little bit underwhelming” that Mislintat has signed a series of players from Dortmund, but this is like when people criticised Arsene Wenger for “only buying French” when he first joined. And Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Remi Garde, Gilles Grimandi and Nicolas Anelka turned out all right.

Should Mislintat have pursued players other than Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan  and Sokratis, just to prove that he has a wider knowledge of world football? Should Arsenal not be targeting former Dortmund player Osumane Dembele?

These are players fans of the club have called to sign for years.

We were all disappointed when Mkhitaryan joined Manchester United over Arsenal a few years back, and Aubameyang has been at the top of many fans wish list for a few years. Dembele is another fans called for the club to sign before he joined Barcelona for silly money last summer.

Arsenal are desperate for leadership, physicality and defenders that can defend. In Lichtsteiner and Sokratis, we have secured that.

Now we just need to sort out what sits in front of them and what sits behind.

Keenos

Advertisements

Arsenal can not risk a repeat of Sebastien Squillaci

I have long held the opinion that Arsenal will only sign one centre back this summer.

With Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Calum Chambers, Rob  Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos set to be joined in Islington by Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 into 2 does not go.

There is an argument that we should sell to buy. That Shkodran Mustafi will leave the club and be replaced, but this does not make me comfortable.

The two names heavily linked are Caglar Soyuncu and Benjamin Pavard, both 22.

With Laurent Koscielny out injured until 2019, it would be very risky to try and integrate a new first choice centre back pairing without having senior back up.

Buying from a new country is always uncertain, even somewhere like Germany where the style and quality of football is very similar to the Premier League.

If Arsenal made the decision to try and integrate Sokratis alongside either Soyuncu or Pavard, without having a senior back up, the risks would be great.

If one struggles to settle – like when Sebastien Squillaci flopped upon moving from Spain (he was just 30-years-old at the time), we need to ensure we have adequate back up. Holding, Chambers and Mavropanos are not adequate back up.

The summer we signed Squillaci, we also secured the services of Laurent Koscielny.

The French pair were added to a squad that contained Thomas Vermaalen and Johan Djourou.

The Belgian had been at the club for a year (and had not yet broken down) and Djourou at 23 was showing himself to be one of the best young centre backs in the league.

In Squillaci we secured an experienced French international. Laurent Koscielny a bit of a risk – 24-years-old with just a single year of top flight football to his name.

However we could take that risk as we had Vermaalen in the squad.

Low-and-behold, Vermaalen broke down – playing just 5 games, and Squillaci failed to keep up with the pace of the game. This left us relying on Koscielny and Djoruou. The pair playing 80 games between them.

Now picture the scene.

Koscielny is out injured until 2019. Sokratis comes in and his Arsenal career replicates that of Squillaci. He flops.

We have sold Mustafi to make room for the new lad – lets say Soyuncu – and all of a sudden we are playing a 22 year old in his first season in England alongside Calum Chambers. And what happens if we get hit by the double wammy? That Soyuncu (or Pavard) also struggles?

At least with Mustafi, we know what we have. We might not be 100% sure on him, but he has been in England for 2 years, and would provide some sort of consistency.

And with Hector Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis and Saed Kolasinac not at the World Cup, they will get a full 8 weeks with Unai emery being coached, organised, and taught how to defend.

However, whilst watching France v Australia, and seeing Pavard play for the first team, a solution came to mind.

With both Pavard and Soyuncu being 22, they would not be getting signed for now, but also with one eye on the future – the next 8 – 10 years.

Last season Arsenal played 60 games. This season I imagine it will be similar.

That means there is plenty of game time to justify paying the money for a new, young centre back.

Instead of coming in to partner Sokratis, they will be coming in to compete with Mustafi to partner him.

They struggle to settle straight away, it means the senior partnership of Mustafi and Sokratis starts. If they come in and fly, it would mean that Mustafi is relegate to that second choice.

But this would still leave us with 7 centre backs for 2 positions.

We can write off Koscielny. January 2019 is the earliest he will be back to fitness. And that is if there are no complications with his Achilles injury. It would not be too much of a surprise to me if we never see him in an Arsenal shirt again – with his contract expiring in 2020.

That means we still need to shed one. Either Chambers, Holding or Mavropanos.

Reports are that Fulham are interested in Calum Chambers, with prices mooted about of £20m.

Watching Pavard play, out of position at right back, he certainly looks like an upgrade on the Englishman. Soyuncu is as well.

By trading in Chambers for £20m, and signing one of the others for £35m seems like a good deal. An additional £15m spent on a better player.

We would then have Mustafi and Sokratis as first choice centre backs, and Soyuncu / Pavard alongside Rob Holding as the second string players, getting game time in the League Cup and Europa League.

A lot of people will now be moaning about Mavropanos.

Let’s remember he is still just 20-years-old and people calling for him to be considered after just 3 games need to give him the chance.

I would rather Mavropanos remain in and around the squad for the first 6 months, giving us a 5th centre back option. Then if Koscielny does return in 2019, Mavropanos perhaps go’s out on loan for the rest of the season.

That will then leave us with 5 options going into 2019/21.

Sokratis (who will then be 31), Soyuncu / Pavard (23), Mustafi (27), Holding (23) & Mavropanos (21)

A decision could then be made next summer on the future of Mustafi.

If he steps up to the plate and improves alongside a consistent leader like Sokratis, he stays. If he shows himself adequate enough (and is happy being) 3rd choice centre back, that is fine as well.

If he fails to improve, and Arsenal decide to cash in, they at least then know about Sokratis and the new guy, and if one hasn’t fully settled, look to buy another centre back next summer.

Whilst I am still not comfortable someone coming in this summer to replace Mustafi in the summer, I am certainly not against bringing in someone who will bridge the skills gap between Holding / Chambers / Mavropanos and Sokratis, even if that means that one of the 3 youngsters ends up making way.

Keenos

Arsenal set to complete £65m triple transfer “within 2 weeks”

A huge criticism of the last 10 years of the Arsene Wenger era was the dithering over transfers – with the club often waiting until the last week of the transfer window to complete deals.

The new era lead by Raul Sanllehi and Sven Mislintat has heralded a new policy on transfers.

Not only were we happy to deal with a super agent when we signed Henrik Mkhitaryan, and got through a complex deal which saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang join the club in January, we are not concluding our transfer dealings earlier.

We have already seen Stephan Lichtsteiner join the club on a free transfer, and it is becoming increasingly likely that he will be joined by 3 more new signings.

We already know that the deal of Sokratis Papastathopoulos will go through at the beginning July. The Greek centre back joining Arsenal for £16m.

The Gunners are closing in on the £26m signing of Sampdoria midfielder Lucas Torreira.

Arsenal are discussing personal terms with representatives of Uruguay midfielder Torreira and a deal for the 22-year-old who came off the bench on Friday to help Uruguay beat Egypt 1-0.

A £26m fee has been agreed between the two clubs. Over his release clause but allows Arsenal to spread payments out.

Unai Emery is also keen to sign a goalkeeper and Arsenal have made contact with Leverkusen over a move for Bernd Leno. The 26-year-old will replace Petr Cech as the Gunners No1.

Reports are they have approached Bayer Leverkusen over a £23m deal for German goalkeeper Bernd Leno, who recently liked an Instagram post concerning the transfer speculation.

As Leno was left out of Germany’s World Cup squad, there are unlikely to be too many delays in completing the deal.

With all 3 set to be completed in the next two weeks, it will leave the club plenty of time and money to complete a “special” signing before the window shuts on the eve of the transfer window.

Keenos