Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal captaincy not important – Sokratis Papastathopoulos

Sokratis feels it is up to everyone within the team to lead on the pitch.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos feels it is up to everyone within the team to lead on the pitch (Nigel French/PA)
Sokratis Papastathopoulos feels it is up to everyone within the team to lead on the pitch (Nigel French/PA)

By Mark Mann-Bryans, PA

Sokratis Papastathopoulos believes it is not important who wears the captain’s armband at Arsenal as the fall-out from Granit Xhaka being stripped of the honour continues.

Gunners head coach Unai Emery opted to relieve Xhaka of his duties after the Switzerland midfielder told supporters to “f*** off” as they jeered him following his substitution in a recent draw with Crystal Palace.

The club initially rallied around their skipper and insisted they would offer counselling and other support mechanisms as Emery said Xhaka was “devastated, sad and very down”.

Xhaka then offered an apology of sorts as he claimed social media abuse aimed at his wife and newborn child had played a significant part in his outburst.

Emery then announced on Tuesday that he had taken the decision to remove the 27-year-old from the role having allowed his squad to participate in a blind ballot to elect Xhaka in the first place.

With Emery installing a five-man leadership group, the second most popular selection amongst his team-mates, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, will now become the de facto captain.

But Sokratis feels it is up to everyone within the team to lead on the pitch as Arsenal look to end a mini-slump which has seen them allow a lead to slip in their last four matches and win only one of their last six.

“The captaincy or who has this (signals to the armband) on the pitch, I don’t think it’s very important,” the Greece international said.

“It’s important that all the team is good in the dressing room. We are like a family. In the end who brings the pitch the captaincy is the last thing.”

Sokratis, who played alongside Aubameyang at Borussia Dortmund before the pair were reunited at the Emirates Stadium last summer, is keen for the striker to maintain his focus on finding the back of the net.

Asked what Aubameyang was like as a leader, Sokratis added: “I don’t know, I think it’s the first time he is a captain.

“For me it’s more important that Auba first has to score, he has to do his work.

“He’s a very good guy. But I already said something – who has the captaincy is not very important.”

After a disappointing Europa League draw away to Vitoria on Wednesday, Arsenal return to Premier League action at the weekend looking to improve on a record of two wins from their last nine games.

They travel to in-form Leicester, who are currently third in the table and six points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal as Sokratis admits – even at this stage of the season – it will be an important evening for the visitors.

“It’s a very big game, it’s a game we have to win,” he said.

“Of course we have a lot of games in front and if we see last year we were there but in the last seven games, we didn’t win one.

“The other teams were six, seven points behind us but in the end they were in front. We need to be consistent all year, not only one month.

“Leicester is in a very good moment, they’re a very hungry team. You can see this. We have to be ready to beat them.”

PA

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