Wise and not slow…..in defending not philosophy….
When we first signed Sokratis Papastathopolous from Borussia Dortmund, the resemblance of his name and that an ancient Greek forbear – Socrates – made me chuckle a little. If we signed a player called Leonidas, we could have pretty defiant last defensive stands at least.
But like the great philosopher Socrates in some form, he has been very wise, insightful, and in some ways groundbreaking in our defensive understanding. He’s been a player we’ve been crying out for years, and I think he can be a sound addition for us going forward.
It’s not to say our other central defenders have been poor. But he has certainly added something new and different to our existent backline:
“Taking one for the team”
The West Ham and City games were examples of him taking it for the team. He fouled Aguero when he was through on goal, resulting in a yellow card. Mahrez nearly scored from the resulting free-kick, but it showed a different tack. For too long, we’ve had defenders who haven’t been as ruthless, but in Emery’s first game he showed how we can be more robust.
The West Ham game had something similar, though late in the game he received a booking for stopping a challenge in West Ham’s half. This potentially stopped an attack, and West Ham in fairness played well that day. But again, like the City game, it was something new, and very welcome indeed.
“If in doubt, clout it out”
Mustafi had a notable slip at Newcastle, but Sokratis was able to cover and knock the ball out for a corner. The first half was also dominated by him, though as Newcastle had possession and chances at that point, they didn’t manage to score until the very end of the game.
This further references his no-nonsense attitude, and something we’ve missed for a while.
Koscielny stands as arguably the best Arsenal centre-back since the Invincibles – or at least Tony Adams and Sol Campbell’s peaks.
Whilst he started slowly, culminating in the mistake vs. Brum in the League Cup Final, he recovered greatly in the next season. From 2012 to 2016, in my own view, he was a genuine world class defender, and this showed via his presence in the French national team. Had he not been injured, he may have won the World Cup, along with former teammate Giroud no less.
Koscielny has many strengths, including pace, agility, quick recovery, and a good reading of the game. If there is a criticism, it’s based on not being “in your face” enough. This is fine since no player is perfect. But Arsenal has not had many “in your face” defenders in recent years. Kos is a player I respect a lot, but Sokratis complements Kos’s qualities. They haven’t played together yet, but Sokratis’s bite could match Kos’s guile
I like Kos a lot, and this isn’t even to knock him. But Sokratis in some ways is an anti-Kos, and it would be interesting to see how well they can play together. It may not be a sustained relationship, given Kos’s age. Sokratis isn’t that young either – but it would be cool to see in action.
Mustafi is a much-maligned defender, and I can understand why.
I believe fundamentally, he is sound. It’s just that he is prone to woeful errors, which prove costly.
Sokratis could be a calming influence on him, and he could provide the experience and guidance required for him to prosper. Mustafi has come out and said that he is getting more instruction under Emery than under Wenger. Possibly a defender of Sokratis’s style can aid this self-discovery.
Holding, Chambers, Mavropanos
Holding and even Chambers who is on loan at Fulham, of course, could benefit also.
Both, whilst still young, possibly haven’t had the development required to shine yet. I feel both defenders at their respective ages should have 100+ games in all competitions under their belts now. And they both hold potential to be top defenders on a world level.
Sokratis’s position at the club could help them mature, and considering the age of Kos (33), it may be opportune for them.
His young compatriot Mavropanos can learn also, though he has time on his side vis a vis Holding/Chambers.
To extend the ancient Greek metaphor, Socrates died since the people of Athens forced him to drink poison, as his knowledge made him too powerful. He also influenced Plato, who in turn influenced Aristotle. Maybe Sokratis can be the fatal hemlock to our continual bad defending.