Reports coming out of Germany today that the club is looking to bolster experience in defence again with the signing of 29-year-old Dortmund centre-back, Sokratis. I can’t say this signing makes me weak at knees, and I’m not really sure he’s adding levels to our game. I keep looking at the signings we’re making through the prism of culture building, versus seeing them purely as elite level talent hires.
The club appear to be looking beyond just the on-the-field dimensions with these names, they’re signing parts that they’re missing from a culture/leadership perspective. Now, it’s pretty clear that the Greek isn’t a world class addition, so he must be bringing something else to the table? Maybe he’s a solid leader, maybe he’s good with young players, maybe he’s a Remi Garde like signing? The more seasoned Frenchman was brought to Arsenal to help the young French players at the club acclimate. He was like a mentor type figure in a largely English setup.
The Greek is he looks every inch like we’ve signed Squillaci MKII. He’s bit of a journeyman, he’ll be 30 by the start of the season, he’s being signed as an experienced stop gap.
It’s very hard for players to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League, especially when they’ve come over from a slower league with a winter break. The Greek is a ball playing defender who was listed as one of the best in the Bundesliga in January 2017 by Kicker. Tuchel liked him because he could play the ball and extinguish problems early (a bit like peak Koscielny would do), so it’s clear Arsenal are opting for a technical defender who can help us play out of the back, I’d also say they fear that Koscielny won’t be back for quite a while.
The comparison to old Seb reads unfair, but ultimately, he was a good player who’d played a CL final and for a top France team 21 times. One that was used to playing in proper systems and failed because Arsene didn’t protect defenders.
“You can see that from before my time and after my time. The style of play was a bit like Spain’s. It was very open, and often we found ourselves defending in the middle one on one with the opposition attackers. It was never easy. It was very attacking. But that was the club’s philosophy.
“I talked about it with coach Wenger. He told me, ‘I know it’s difficult, but I want us to play like this, I want the attacking players to have more freedom and less defensive work’.”
Emery is going to give everyone a chance to survive at Arsenal, because he’ll give the defence more structure and purpose, and he’ll also make sure the rest of the team is working for them. The setup might become more than the sum of its parts under the new regime.
Also, when you read around the background of the player, he has a lot of very good press. He’s played under Klopp, Tuchel and Allegri. So he knows how to play in a fluid system. He was also chosen to be the captain of Athens at 19 years old, before being picked out as a bit of a warrior at Dortmund. This extract from the Bundesliga magazine was also pretty hopeful.
Though he did not fully establish himself as first-choice until Thomas Tuchel’s arrival in 2015, his first two campaigns with Die Schwarzgelben still brought 43 starts and a formidable 66 percent of challenges won. His promotion came at the expense of Subotic, and since the 2016 departure of Hummels for Bayern, Sokratis has been the undisputed general of Dortmund’s rearguard action, a billing he has lived up to famously.
His 69 percent ‘challenges won’ ratio this season has been a major part in helping BVB enjoy a clean sheet tally in double figures, an admirable achievement given the gung-ho nature of his team, particularly under Peter Bosz. In the top 10 for touches this season — level with Naldo and just behind Hummels — Sokratis’ 90 percent pass completion means he is just as important in getting his own side moving forward as he is in stopping BVB’s rivals doing the same. And it is not just because referees fear writing his full name — Sokratis Papastathopoulos — that he has received just three five cards this season as his play includes more finesse than his nightclub doorman 6’1″ frame would suggest.
If we’re bringing in a younger player to bring a bit of wow (Caglar Soyuncu), then I can live with this signing. I just hope the extent of Diamond Eyes talent isn’t rooting out deals from Dortmund. It looks like comfort behaviour or a lack confidence in new decisions. We’ve signed Auba, Mikki and likely Sokratis. Even Mavrapanos was a signing he identifiued at his old club. Time to remove ourselves from the soft teet of the German club and move in on a new chapter…
UNLESS THAT NEW CHAPTER INVOLVES DEMBELE.
So far it seems we’re getting our less than spectacular signings out the way first. Lichensteiner and Sokratis are squad filler, versus players we’re going to truly build around, but if they have the right attitude, combined with a fighting spirit, it certainly gives us a little more balance at the back experience wise.
Also, regardless of what you think of the quality of the names, we’re doing business quickly for once. I don’t think we’ll be looking at our squad at the end of July wondering what the f*cking going on. We have a plan, we’re going hard at it, and there will be no excuses centred around the terrors of money and modern football come the start of the season.
Hopefully, Sven brings a little more creativity to some of the additional signings.