With the squad bloated, the result was inevitable.
Needing to trim two senior non-homegrown players from the squad to satisfy quota requirements, Mesut Ozil and Sokratis Papastathopoulos were always going to be omitted at Arsenal.
For the former, the writing has been on the wall for months, while for the latter, the turn of the year brought upon the eventual nail. There were reasons for Ozil to make way beyond just the issue of quality and Mikel Arteta’s needs, but for the Greek defender no such qualms over professionalism could be taken into account.
Throughout a career that spanned across four countries, Sokratis’ unassuming demeanour off the pitch perfectly balanced his fearsome all-action displays on it. The man who never smiles didn’t do so on the pitch either, but he brought smiles to others with an unwavering dedication to success that ensured his career spanned as long as it did.
In the last nine seasons he only made less than 30 outings in all competitions once, but it has been evident since he joined Arsenal that his best days were past him.
Shkodran Mustafi rightly has been lambasted for a propensity to go to ground when the situation calls for otherwise, but the same applied to Sokratis. He was too rash and got caught out positionally at an alarming rate, although we were offered the odd occasion where all fell into place in the form of battling, well-rounded displays.
A handful of performances stand out, but the fact it requires a few minutes to remember them speaks volumes. He didn’t suit the style Unai Emery wanted, which made his signing a bemusing one in the first place.
Incapable of making line-breaking passes, not offering anything in the way of progression and at a time where defenders who were comfortable receiving the ball in tight spaces and mobile enough to turn were required, Sokratis was the wrong player at the wrong time.
He never, however, let anyone down with his attitude. While there are legitimate grounds to question his ability, when called upon he gave his heart and soul. At times of defensive crises he would slot in at right-back undeterred – how well he performed on those occasions we’ll brush over.
Sokratis’ time at Arsenal and the top level appears over, but if a place in the team were judged on professionalism alone, he’d start every week.