Arsenal are reportedly the front-runners in the race to sign Borussia Dortmund defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
According to Bild (h/t Football.London’s Charles Watts), the Gunners are ahead of the likes of Manchester United and Juventus as Arsenal’s head of recruitment Sven Mislintat is in “close contact” with the centre-back’s agent, Konstantinos Farras.
The 29-year-old, who has one year remaining on his contract, is expected to cost around €20 million (£17.5 million) and it’s said to be “probable” that he arrives at the Emirates Stadium this summer.
Mislintat’s primary focus for the upcoming window is to secure a centre-back, a goalkeeper and a central midfielder in order to strengthen the Gunners’ spine.
Arsenal’s defensive frailty has repeatedly let them down this season. The north London outfit has shipped 46 goals in the Premier League—14 more than Burnley—and on Thursday they allowed themselves to be sucker punched by Atletico Madrid despite dominating the 10-man side for the majority of the match.
As sports journalist Mootaz Chehade noted, Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were all at fault:
Mootaz Chehade @MHChehade
Monreal paying no attention to the defensive line and playing Griezmann onside, Koscielny kicking the ball into his own face, Mustafi slipping and sliding for absolutely no reason. Comedy of errors.
Mustafi has not convinced since he arrived from Valencia, while Koscielny’s time at the top level appears to be over, particularly as he’ll turn 33 in September.
According to Squawka, Sokratis has won 43 tackles in 27 Bundesliga appearances this season as well as 70 headed duels, and he has made 35 interceptions and 98 clearances. He has also maintained a passing accuracy of 87 per cent, created five chances and scored twice.
Goal’s Ronan Murphy and football writer Lars Pollmann have their doubts about the Greek, however:
Ronan Murphy @swearimnotpaul
@EduardoHagn @AsadKha79665506 @LeeGunner82 @TroopzAFC @MrDtAFC @ArsenalFanTV I’d probably have 14 CBs ahead of him if I thought enough to make a list.
Lars Pollmann @LarsPollmann
He’s not errorproof enough defensively to mask problems on the ball. Won’t get smarter tactically/a better decision maker I don’t think. Leadership been put into question. Not the kind of package I’d invest heavily in as BVB
With manager Arsene Wenger departing this summer, the Gunners’ goal is to arrest and reverse the decline the Frenchman has overseen in recent years, and strengthening their spine—particularly their defensive capabilities—can help them achieve that.
That process will not occur overnight, but it’s vital they get their recruitment decisions correct in order to facilitate it. Sokratis has impressed at times with BVB, but he could be a risk Arsenal can ill afford to take.