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Sokratis Papastathopoulos explains why he loves being a defender - and picks Premier League rival as his favourite centre-back

Sokratis Papastathopoulos

Sokratis Papastathopoulos believes it is "very difficult" to be a defender in the modern game.

The Arsenal centre-back had a mixed first half of the season but recently helped his side record back-to-back clean sheets against Manchester United and Leeds.

And despite the difficulties of the position, the Greece international still enjoys life as a defender.

"Football has changed a lot in the past 10 or 12 years. When I started football, I was in Italy. I was in Greece first, but afterwards I made the step to Italy," he told Arsenal's official website.

"It was not so necessary to play out from the back and because of this, you also didn’t concede a lot of chances or a lot of goals.

"Now, every team, or most, has to start from the back and exchange a lot of passes to arrive in the opposite area and to score. The more passes and more things you do, you also have more risk inside. For this, it’s more beautiful football, but also the teams concede more goals because the players are not robots. Everybody makes mistakes.

"That's why being a defender these days is very difficult. I think it is one of the most difficult positions. Maybe you don’t have to run like a midfielder, but every mistake that you do is a very hard mistake for the team, so you pay very expensively.

"But I still love being a defender. And for me, the part I enjoy most is when you can defend well like a team, to control the game, to fight for every ball and every duel.

"Every day is the one you have to show to everybody that you have a strong mentality and also your qualities in the game and mentality, especially to win. We have had some difficult moments this season and we know we need to improve, but we have the quality to do it. We just need the confidence.

"To be one of the best defenders, you need to have everything to be complete. It’s about focusing on the game very well, pace, power, technique also, to control the game from behind. 

"It's also important to be a winner and to be a winner, your mentality has to be at a high level every day. In every game, every training session, every duel, you have to win it. If that means we keep the zero in the defence, then I've done my job."

Sokratis looked up to Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro when he was a youngster, but he now believes a Premier League rival is the world's leading defender.

"What Virgil van Dijk did last year was something very difficult for every defender to do. Last year for him was perfect, especially for all the people close to him who helped him a lot," he added.

"He was very good and it was a good year for him. With the way football is going in front, especially when everybody thinks about offensive players and how they can score more, I think the defenders need to start getting more credit."

Arsenal will be looking for a third consecutive win and clean sheet when they face Crystal Palace on Saturday.

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