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'We're not robots' - Sokratis fires back at Arsenal critics & backs Emery to deliver Champions League

14:00 GMT+3 03/05/2019
Sokratis Arsenal 2018-19
The Gunners beat Valencia in 3-1 in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final and the Greek is fully supportive of his manager's methods

Sokratis has hit back at Arsenal's critics after the Gunners bounced back from their Premier League misery to take a giant leap towards the club’s first European final in 13 years.

Three successive defeats in the league - to Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester - have seen Unai Emery’s side lose their place in the top four domestically with just two games of the season remaining.

The dramatic collapse at such a key stage of the campaign has seen some point the finger of blame towards the head coach, with his team selection during the home defeat by Palace viewed by many as a big error.

But Sokratis was staunch in his defence of Emery after Thursday night’s Europa League semi-final first leg win against Valencia and says the Spaniard is making sure the squad is in the best shape possible to bring Champions League football back to the Emirates Stadium.

"I hear that everyone speaks about the system, the manager," said the 30-year-old. "The manager tries every day to give the best to us, to the team.

"We want to to play in the Champions League. This is the point, our manager and the staff behind him help us every day [to do that]. We work a lot with the training, the video, we analyse everything and I hope in the end we are right."

Sokratis added: "I think the critics are good to hear, to improve, but they do not touch us mentally. We are a big family and we are all together, we stay all together.

"Of course, when you play at a team like Arsenal and you lose three games you hear critics and you have to improve.

"We are here to give the best for the club, for the fans and for ourselves also. I think that the biggest point is that we have to stay focused.

"In one week, for example, [Laurent] Koscielny makes a mistake or I make a mistake or [Shkodran] Mustafi the same, Nacho [Monreal] too, we are people and not robots."

Arsenal are now within touching distance of the Europa League final following Thursday night’s 3-1 win against Valencia.

The Gunners responded well after going behind and had got themselves in front by half-time thanks to a brace from Alexandre Lacazette.

They had further chances to extend their lead after the interval but looked set to have to settle for just a single goal advantage ahead of the return leg until Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s crucial last-minute volley.

Emery’s side now head to Mestalla next week in a commanding position, knowing that any sort of positive result would be enough to leave them just 90 minutes away from a return to the Champions League.

And Sokratis has full belief the team can now go on and lift the trophy in Baku on May 29.

"I came here because I would like to play in the Champions League, I didn't come here to play in the Europa League," he said.

"At this moment I believe and I think only this – to play in the Champions League. We can go to the final and win the Europa League.

"I think we deserve [to be in the Champions League] of course.

"Last week was not good, but we have to think that okay, three games we played really bad - but also we have to think what we did over the whole eight months.

"It is not about three games putting everything out. This is football. You can win, you can lose."

Lacazette and Aubamenyang have now scored 43 times between them this season and have contributed to 61 goals when you factor in assists.

It’s a strike pairing that belongs in the Champions League - with Valencia coach Marcelino admitting that the Arsenal front two had made the difference once again after Thursday night’s win.

"They have two very good strikers, I don’t know how many millions of euros they cost," he said. "If you make even the slightest mistake at this level players like that can take advantage of that."

For Sokratis it’s a relief that he doesn’t have to come up against the two frontmen on a regular basis, although he admits he and his fellow defenders have come up with a way of stopping them during the week at London Colney.

"In training I think it is more easy," he joked. "You give them one and they go inside.

"I am happy that I train every day with these players. Every player believes and wants to play in the Champions League next year and to go to the [Europa League] final but there is still a lot of work to do.

"There are still 90 minutes left. I think we have given a good response to the last three games that we were very bad in, now we have to keep this form for Sunday and next week."