Arsenal’s New Bullet: Sokratis
With Arsenal’s new manager, Unai Emery, eager to secure some central defensive reinforcements ahead of the new season, the signing of Sokratis Papastathopoulos is a great place to start.
After all, the former Borussia Dortmund stalwart will add vital experience, leadership qualities, aggression and class to the Gunners’ backline, while also being a fantastic resource for the likes of Calum Chambers and Konstantinos Mavropanos to learn from.
Physical, intimidating and a player that always gives his all, the formidable stopper will unquestionably lead by example through his actions and set the tone wonderfully for his teammates to follow.
To start with his defensive output, and the Greek international undertakes his work with authority and conviction. A very proactive operator, Sokratis makes life extremely difficult for his opposition. Upon recognizing his man drop deep to link play, Sokratis will usually immediately respond to this by pressing doggedly, ensuring his man can’t cleanly control the ball or turn him and face their goal. This subsequently allows him to use his strength to unbalance them to force a turnover, his long legs to intercept and just generally prevent them from executing smoothly.
He’ll notably do the same when his adversary checks to provide an outlet for counter attacks, with him keen to nullify potential threats before they fully develop. Although there’s some inherent danger attached to this if he’s bypassed, the reward of regaining possession and attacking higher up definitely outweighs the risk.
Showing solid concentration, anticipation, and awareness in the aforementioned, the 30-year-old transfers this over to tracking runs in behind, for he constantly surveys his surroundings, preparing to move when required. Indeed, this helps him greatly when he faces off with faster, more dynamic forwards, who look to get the jump on him.
Being so accomplished in aerial duels, the colossal warrior times his leaps well, judges the ball’s trajectory astutely and does a proficient job of altering his body orientation to deal assuredly with these situations. In addition, he’s also shown his capacity to handle himself competently in 1v1 battles, where he crouches into a powerful posture, ready to react sharply to his opponent’s actions, while using his cover shadow to block passing lanes behind him.
A tidy organizer of his defensive lines’ spacing and positioning, where he takes the initiative to communicate and gesture to his colleagues where best to position themselves to deal with what’s confronting them, he does everything in his power to ensure structural security.
On the odd occasion he does overzealously commit an error, he tirelessly works to recover his post to restore stability to his backline as soon as possible.
The commanding presence contributes beautifully on the offensive end too, where his passing and ability to carry the ball upfield will serve Emery’s men tremendously. Extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet, he uses his dribbling prowess to either embark on explosive bursts forward, where he ably can get past one or more opponents, or to provoke a pressing action to open up a passing lane further upfield.
Meanwhile, his distribution is just as fruitful, for his aptitude in this regard will see him act as a wonderful orchestrator and facilitator of Arsenal’s build-up play out from the back.
Familiar with splitting wide when passing out from the back, a method Emery will implement, this effectively stretches out opposing pressing setups and generates numerical superiorities in order to move up the field cleaner.
Accomplished at breaking lines, playing raking diagonals and adjusting his body position prior to receiving, he combines these things well to execute his decisions on the ball with clarity.
All things considered, the signing of the formidable Sokratis should definitely go some way towards alleviating many of the defensive issues Arsenal suffered last campaign.
Only time will tell if he, in fact, does.
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