BBC pundit praises Arsenal’s Greek centre-back after Manchester United triumph

BBC pundit Garth Crooks has praised the performance of Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Laurent Koscielny in central defence during the 2-0 win over Manchester United in the Premier League. The Gunners had come into the game following a disappointing 3-1 Europa League loss at Rennes and this led to many considering them as underdogs for the Red Devils clash.

However, the north London side started on the front foot with Granit Xhaka scoring for them in the opening 15 minutes and they managed to hold onto the lead for the interval with some luck. Following the break, the Gunners were much more assured with their defensive showing starting from the goalkeeper and Crooks had special praise for the centre-back pairing of Sokratis and Koscielny.

He said: “I have given Arsenal’s defence plenty of stick this season but their performance as a unit against United was first class. In appalling conditions I thought Sokratis and Laurent Koscielny were magnificent. The Gunners have brought United down to earth from the Paris clouds and with a mighty bump. Back to reality.”

Sokratis had a forgettable game against Rennes during the away leg of the Europa League round of 16 where his red card in the first half contributed to the Gunners’ succumbing to a 3-1 defeat from a 1-0 advantage. As such, there were questions posed regarding the positioning and awareness of the former AEK Athens graduate, but he managed to make amends with a strong second half performance against United, where he was able to handle the threat from Romelu Lukaku, barring one occasion.

Despite the positives, Sokratis would remain suspended for the home leg against Rennes in the Europa League round of 16 where the Gunners have to overcome a 3-1 deficit. In his place, Shkodran Mustafi appears likely to feature in the three-man defence and it remains to be seen whether the Gunners are able to overturn the disadvantage. Unai Emery’s side require a minimum of two clear goals to progress.