SOKRATIS PAPASTATHOPOULOS is ready to bring some much-needed steel to Arsenal’s flaky defence.
The Greek international centre-half, 30, is under no illusions about why the club have just paid £16million to lure him from Borussia Dortmund.
Not since the days of Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure have the Gunners had such a no-nonsense hard man, willing to put steel before style.
But Sokratis is about to change all that — by bringing his no-frills style to a back four which shipped 76 goals in all competitions last term.
He said: “Football has changed a lot in the last five or six years.
“Many coaches and teams now only look at how to play, not how to defend. But I am here to show that I am first of all a defender and all the other things come after that.
“Of course you have to know how to play with the ball.
“But my opinion is, in football, the defender is there to defend.
“My first steps as a player were in Italy where Maldini was a great defender. I played at AC Milan with Nesta and Thiago Silva.
“They were great players to learn from, players who were first of all defenders. It was a good school for me and now I am ready to pass on what I know.”
It was head of recruitment Sven Mislintat who used his Dortmund contacts to set up the Sokratis deal, before Unai Emery was even appointed to replace Arsene Wenger.
But there is no doubt that the new manager shares Sokratis’ enthusiasm for clean sheets.
And the former Genoa, Milan and Werder Bremen stopper revealed: “On the first day of training the coach worked on this with us.
“All the players work on tactics, we look a lot of times at videos, at what was wrong and what we need to do better.
“So I think and hope that this year the things at the back will be much better.”
Wenger refused to give a deal of more than 12 months to any player beyond their 30th birthday.
But Sokratis insists there is still plenty more fuel left in his tank, despite passing Wenger’s cut-off point earlier this month.
He said: “I think 30 is the best age for a defender. So for the next three of four years, I will give everything for this team.
“Maybe this will be my last club outside my country but I’m not only here for personal glory. First of all I look to do my best for the team.
“For ten years now I have worked outside of Greece. I have a lot of experience and feel I’ve been brought to help on the pitch and to help the young guys.”
One of the kids Sokratis has been encouraged to mentor is fellow defender Konstantinos Mavropanos, 20, signed from Greek side PAS Giannina in January for £2m.
If they do play together in the new season Arsenal fans could be shelling out a small fortune on replica shirts bearing their names.
So then is to be Sokratis or Papastathopoulos?
He joked: “Sokratis. It’s much easier for the fans. Can you imagine one of my team-mates on the pitch shouting, ‘Hey, Papastathopoulos, move left’? No, they can call me Papa or Sokratis.”
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