If reports are to be believed, Arsenal aren’t too far away from announcing the first three signings of the Unai Emery managerial era.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos already looks like a done deal, with even the BBC’s David Ornstein weighing in to say a transfer is close. The Arsenal deal for Stephan Lichtsteiner also has the Ornstein seal of approval, with the 34-year-old near to joining on a free transfer from Juventus.
Finally, Caglar Soyuncu isn’t a nailed on signing just yet, but he’s definitely the leading contender from the remaining players the media are linking to Arsenal. He recently publicly confirmed the Gunners’ interest in him, but said they haven’t finalised a deal just yet.
Let’s take a look at each of the signings, to see what they’ll bring to Arsenal:
- Current club: Borussia Dortmund
- Age: 29
- Position: Centre-back
- Rumoured transfer fee: £16m
Sokratis is a defender with tonnes of experience, particularly in Germany and Italy, having played for Dortmund, Werder Bremen, AC Milan and Genoa. He made his initial breakthrough with AEK Athens in his home country, Greece. Now it seems he’s going to test himself in a third of Europe’s top five leagues.
As well as regular club football, Sokratis also consistently appears for the Greek national team. He captained the side and scored in their recent World Cup qualification playoff against Croatia, but it wasn’t enough to avoid eventual defeat.
He’s an accurate passer, with only eight Bundesliga defenders having a higher pass accuracy than him in 2017/18 (minimum 1,000 passes). He also won 68% of his individual duels, which only three players in the entire league could top.
Sokratis also won 89.04% of his tackles this season:
Sokratis Papastathopoulos won 89.04% of his tackles in the Bundesliga in 2017/18:
• 73 attempted
• 65 won
• 8 lost
Only Julian Weigl (69) won more for Dortmund. pic.twitter.com/1KuYH1EOYZ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 28, 2018
It’s not all good news though. The defender turns 30 in the summer, and some Dortmund fans feel he was at least partly to blame for their difficulties in defence this campaign. Given how poorly their whole team performed in the first-half of the season, it’s hard to say how much that was down to Sokratis.
Hopefully he has a more successful campaign with Arsenal, but the young defenders at the club will certainly benefit from his mentorship either way.
- Current club: Juventus
- Age: 34
- Position: Right-back
- Rumoured transfer fee: Free transfer
If Sokratis is experienced, Lichtsteiner is even more so. He’s available on a free transfer from Juventus, after spending seven years with the club. He also spent three years with Lazio, and three with Lille, after first breaking onto the senior scene with Swiss club Grasshopper.
Like Sokratis, Lichtsteiner is a regular for his country, Switzerland, and will hope to earn his 100th cap this summer. He’s currently on 98.
The full-back’s age is the main concern, as there’s no doubting his quality when he was in his prime. He played a fairly big role for Juventus this season though, making 32 appearances, so he’s not finished yet.
The Swiss defender made two particularly effective appearances in the Champions League, coming on to change the game and help win the tie against Tottenham Hotspur, then providing an assist in his second game against Real Madrid.
At this stage, we shouldn’t expect Lichtsteiner to come in and challenge for a starting spot every week. However, he is a very capable back up to Hector Bellerin, and could help the Spaniard a lot in his development. On a free transfer, it’s definitely worth a shot.
- Current club: SC Freiburg
- Age: 22
- Position: Centre-back
- Rumoured transfer fee: £35m
Soyuncu is significantly more expensive than the other two, and significantly younger too. The defender is still really at the start of his career, having just completed his second season in senior top-flight football with Freiburg.
He’s already done enough to impress Arsenal head of recruitment Sven Mislintat though. His performances in the Bundesliga have already won him a lot of respect from fans and pundits, despite Freiburg’s battle against relegation in 2017/18.
The 22-year-old is also a regular for Turkey, playing 90 minutes in 11 of their last 12 matches, and appearing for 17 minutes in the 12th.
Soyuncu loves to play out from the back, and has a great passing range with either foot. He’s taller than most of Arsenal’s defenders, at 6’2″, good in the air, and willing to work hard to improve.
On the other hand, he still needs to work on his positioning at times. He also makes the occasional mistake in possession playing out from defence. He should fit right in!
The defender made 30 appearances this season, and appears to be ready to make the step up to take on a new challenge.