Sokratis Papastathopoulos says Arsenal’s players are “not stupid” and must be accountable for a run of performances that threaten to end their hopes of playing Champions League football next season.
Arsenal were blown away at Wolves on Wednesday night, conceding three goals in 19 first-half minutes having started the game relatively well. A late reply from Sokratis proved inconsequential, with his side losing for the third time in four league games, and the centre-back believes they now have to win their remaining three fixtures, starting at Leicester on Sunday, to have a chance of finishing in the top four.
“All the players take responsibility,” he said. “We are not stupid. “We know that we didn’t play good. We have to win all the games and be there.”
After watching his side capitulate at Molineux, Unai Emery said he prefers to be angry with himself when players do not execute his gameplan. Arsenal have only won two of their last 10 away games in the league, at Huddersfield and against a Watford side that was a man light for most of the match, and faced Wolves after a damaging home defeat to Crystal Palace. Asked whether the team vented their frustration in the dressing room, Sokratis suggested the desire to finish fourth causes passions to run high.
“Of course, of course, but the players first like to play [in the] Champions League,” he said. “They like to win but it is not easy. [Wolves] was a bad moment for us. We cannot change it now, so we look forward to the next game.”
Wolves were happy to cede possession for long periods before tearing through Arsenal on the counter. It is a tactic Leicester, who remain in contention for a Europa League spot, might choose to employ too and Sokratis accepted that a similar performance would bring the same outcome.
“If we face [Leicester] like this we will lose,” he said. “It is clear. It is not the problem of the coach, the system, it is nothing. It is just us. We have to win the next three games and it is finished.”
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He noted it was “very difficult for us to change the game” after Wolves broke the deadlock through Ruben Neves. Arsenal were outdone physically and did not appear to have the mental tools for a response, either. Sokratis said both could have been reasons for such a heavy defeat but that he still believes Chelsea, a point ahead in fourth, can be overtaken.
“Maybe a little bit of all [were factors] but it is not time to have excuses,” he said. “We have to look forward: three games more. I trust my team 100% and I think we can do it.”