Arsenal have confirmed that they have terminated the deal of Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
The Greek defender has found playing time difficult to come by under Mikel Arteta, with defenders Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, Rob Holding and, more recently, Gabriel Magalhães being preferred to the 32-year-old with the former Borussia Dortmund defender not even being registered for the first team this season.
It was thought that Sokratis would join Napoli in the summer, however, Napoli made it known that Sokratis would only be considered if they sold Kalidou Koulibaly, who was thought to be joining Manchester City, however, no such move materialised.
Sokratis initially joined Arsenal in 2018, for a reported fee of £17.6m from Borussia Dortmund. The defender was signed by former Head of Recruitment, Sven Mislintat, who identified Sokratis, a player he signed previously for Borussia Dortmund, as the right player to join up with Unai Emery’s team, given the Greek international’s penchant for passing out from the back and strength. Sokratis joined up with former Borussia Dortmund teammates Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Sokratis’ time at the club was somewhat marred by injuries, especially in the early stages of his time with the club, with he and Laurent Koscielny regular casualties in a defence that was beginning to look more and more porous under Unai Emery. The Greek international also started in Arsenal’s 4-1 loss to Chelsea in the Europa League final.
Despite the main reason for his recruitment being down to his abilities to pass out from the back, it seemed as though those abilities had somewhat regressed, especially in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford last season, in which the defender played the ball straight to Tom Cleverley, who subsequently scored.
Since then, he was reduced to more sporadic appearances, mainly in the Europa League and the League Cup. However, following Mikel Arteta’s arrival in the wake of Unai Emery’s unceremonious sacking, Sokratis was barely used at all. Despite his limited game time, Arsenal have been quick to point out their admiration for Sokratis’ work ethic and his commitment in training even when not being picked.
Sokratis’ professionalism during his exile has not gone unnoticed either. The defender has played for the U23s and has been known to speak to the younger players about their playtime and to give them pointers over how to improve their game.
It’s a shame that Arsenal have had to lose such an experienced central defender, but with time running short on his deal and the need for more creative midfielders, Arsenal need to trim their bloated squad, with Mesut Özil expected to follow him.