Arsenal head coach Unai Emery applauded Sokratis Papastathopoulos for his impressive adaptation to English football and is depending on him in Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against Napoli.
Sokratis joined from Borussia Dortmund at the start of the season after a solid five-year spell at Signal Iduna Park.
Despite his undoubted experience and physical presence, some had reservations about his suitability to the Premier League, particularly due to a perceived lack of pace.
But he has generally impressed in his 22 Premier League appearances, while he has also featured eight times in Europe.
The 30-year-old Greece centre-back is likely to start away to Napoli and Emery expects another top performance from him to help Arsenal reach the Europa League semi-finals.
“I think the adaptation [at] first is important and not easy,” Emery told reporters in his pre-match news conference.
“It’s different for different players. We spoke about that with Papa [Sokratis] in pre-season. His adaptation was with the time and the training, the matches are different in England.
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“He took the big performances to help us, like he is now. We are very happy with him and [Thursday] is a big match, so we need players with experience. He’s one of those players.”
Arsenal head into the second leg with a 2-0 lead from the home leg, though Emery still considers the tie to be wide open given Napoli’s talented squad.
When asked about Arsenal’s chances of progression, Emery said: “It’s 50:50, it’s not changed for me.
“We played the first leg at home and we won, but if you did one question about the first leg when at home, we won. That’s a normal result.
“But when you play here against Napoli and think they can beat you, it’s a possibility because they are very strong at home. We are 50:50. It’s not changed, but our mentality and target is to play to win.
“They are a great club with a great president and a great coach here. [Carlo] Ancelotti is a three-time Champions League winner.
“They have great players, their history is great history and their present gives them great opportunities and optimism to win things.
“They’re second in [Serie A] and they will play against us in this round of the Europa League.”
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