Sokratis Papastathopoulos says the north London derby victory over Tottenham was Arsenal’s best performance of the season so far – insisting there was only one team on the pitch at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners were losing at half-time after Eric Dier’s header and Harry Kane’s penalty cut out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first-half spot kick. However, two half time substituions from head coach Unai Emery saw Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Lucas Torreira get on the scoresheet to record a famous derby win.
Emery’s meticulous approach paid dividends as an Arsenal side full of intensity picked up all three points, with Sokratis insisting that the win was fully deserved.
“I think today we were much better,” Sokratis said after the game. “We lost our concentration for 10 minutes after 30 minutes of the game. In the first half and second half we were much better and could have scored more goals. I think today there was only one team on the pitch.
“It was tough. The derbies are like this. It was very important for us that we won but it’s more important the next game.
“If we want to continue and believe we have to play like this in the next games. We need to improve sometimes but today we were much better.”
“If you see the game they did just two things. Maybe we also have to be in these two situations when we conceded. I speak about everyone in general. After our penalty we also had chances to score. It’s very good that when we go down that we continue [to fight].
“We played much better than the beginning and I’m very happy that the points are coming because sometimes you play very good and the points don’t come. I hope that we continue on this road.”
"I think it was the best performance of the season. Today was a great atmosphere, a very good game – I like it, I’m very happy that I played in a game like this."
Greek international Sokratis came up against in-form England striker Harry Kane, an opponent he has faced on several occasions while playing for Borussia Dortmund, although he rarely troubled other than scoring a first-half penalty for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
“He’s a very good player, of course. He’s one of the best strikers in the world - but not today.”
Aubameyang is now the Premier League’s top scorer with 10 goals and two assists. Sokratis played with him for several years together at Dortmund and says it’s no surprise to see the showcase his goalscoring qualities in England.
“I’ve known Aubameyang for more than five years. He’s a great player and in the Bundesliga he scored more than 25 goals every year so he’s a very good player.
“It’s good that maybe sometimes we speak for the other [players] so we’re more concentrated and do our work. Auba is a good player and if you have a good team next to you then it’s not as difficult.”
The midfield partnership of Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka has reaped rewards for Emery in recent games as the team have gone 19 games unbeaten in all competitions. Torreira in particular has become an immediate fan favourite due to his tenacious midfield style and after scoring the fourth goal against Tottenham, while the tactical decision to play three in defence has also benefitted Emery's team of late.
"Lucas is a very good player also and a very good guy," said Sokratis. "I think he’s also very important for our team. It’s the same for Granit, they know when they have to go and when they have to stay which makes it more easy for us at the back."
"I think it’s good [playing three at the back]. It’s something new because this team doesn’t usually play with three at the back. We don’t have to find excuses, we are professional players, we are at this level and when the coach says we have to play with four, three or five we have to be there."
Sokratis admits that Arsenal only have a short time to recover ahead of Wednesday's trip to Old Trafford where they will face Manchester United, but maintains that under Emery the squad continue to improve thanks to the Spaniard's pragmatic approach.
"He [Emery] is very happy. It’s very good because he speaks a lot to us every day. All the stuff with the work and video analysis is very good for the players and helps us a lot."