June 14, 2021

Sokratis opens up on ‘difficult’ Arsenal spell & defends ‘one of the best’ Xhaka after Burnley error

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The Greek defender says he remained “professional until the end” of his career at Emirates Stadium despite a lack of minutes

Sokratis has opened up on his “difficult” spell at Arsenal while describing Granit Xhaka as “one of the best” players he’s worked with following the midfielder’s error against Burnley.

Arsenal confirmed Sokratis’ departure by mutual consent in January, with the centre-back subsequently returning to his native Greece with Olympiacos.

The 32-year-old appeared in 69 games for the Gunners over two-and-a-half years, but was exiled from Mikel Arteta’s squad at the start of the 2020-21 campaign and has now offered an insight into his frustrations on the sidelines.

What’s been said?

“It was difficult because I didn’t have the chance to play because I wasn’t included in the squad list,” Sokratis told Football London.

“I had some offers to leave in the summer but it didn’t happen in the end and I accepted that I had to be outside the list. I did my training and I gave my best for the team, I was professional until the end.

“It was also difficult because in all my career I have played regularly. I played almost 70 games for Arsenal in two years, but when you are in a team you have to put the team first and yourself after.

“I accepted this, I was professional and I didn’t complain to anybody.”

Sokratis’ relationship with Arteta

Arteta only used Sokratis sparingly after being drafted in as Arsenal’s new head coach in December 2019, with the defender restricted to just one Premier League appearance post-lockdown.

He is now preparing to come up against the Spaniard with Olympiacos in the first leg of a round of 16 Europa League tie on Thursday, but insists he won’t be out to try and impress his former manager.

“I don’t have to prove something to Arteta or anyone there. It was his [Arteta’s] decision and the club’s decision and I accepted it,” said Sokratis.

“I had a lot of good memories at Arsenal. I reached the Europa League final, won two trophies – the FA Cup and Community Shield. They are the club which gave me the chance to play in the best league in the world.”

Praise for Xhaka

Sokratis has also jumped to the defence of Xhaka in the wake of his mistake during Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Burnley at the weekend.

The Swiss midfielder cost the Gunners points when he tried to execute a risky pass across his own box before seeing the ball deflect into the net off grateful Clarets striker Chris Wood.

Xhaka has not been the most popular figure among supporters at the Emirates because of his penchant for such moments of madness, but Sokratis has no doubt about his ability.

“Granit is one of the best team-mates I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” he added. “He’s a very important player for Arsenal and I believe that he’s a good player who can be a leader in the team.

“When you make one mistake everybody will go against you, but I know Granit’s character. Before the Burnley game he played five or six games where he was probably the best player in the team.

“I think he’s one of Arsenal’s best players and certainly one of the best midfielders that I’ve played with.”

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