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Sokratis is among the Bundesliga’s Best Defenders

Belgium v Greece - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier
“I will break you”
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

After Mats Hummels left for Bayern Münich, one of the major immediate concerns for BVB was how the defense would perform in his absence. There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that Sokratis would be the club’s number one center back. The only question was how well he would perform in this new role. Sokratis has always been a personal favorite of mine, so I really wanted him to step up and show the Bundesliga that Hummels wasn’t the only star defender in Dortmund. Needless to say, he did not disappoint: Sokratis showed the he is indeed one of the top defenders in the Bundesliga.

The Good

The eye test says that Sokratis is one of the best, most physical defenders in the Bundesliga. I wanted to see if the stats backed that up, so I went to Whoscored and compiled some defensive statistics for Sokratis and a lot of the other “elite” defenders of the Bundesliga. Here’s the table I compiled:

Bundesliga Defenders - 2017

Player Tackles/Match Inter./Match Clearances/Match Blocks/Match Pass%
Player Tackles/Match Inter./Match Clearances/Match Blocks/Match Pass%
Sokratis 2.3 1.5 4 0.5 87.80%
Mats Hummels 2.1 2.1 2.5 0.3 88.80%
Javi Martinez 1.7 0.7 2.4 0.4 91.60%
Niklas Süle 2.1 2.1 2.5 0.5 89.60%
John Brooks 1.4 2.6 5 0.5 86.10%
Omer Toprak 1.4 2 3.9 0.7 84.40%
Marc Bartra 2.8 3.3 3 0.6 82.30%
Matthias Ginter 1.3 1.5 2.4 0.3 87.20%
Aytac Sulu 0.9 2.7 5.1 0.9 76.80%
Benedikt Höwedes 2 2.7 2.3 0.4 86.30%
Bundesliga Defenders - 2016-17

A couple things. Papa’s most notable statistic is that he out-tackled everybody on this list except for... Marc Bartra (?!). In a statistic that should surprise absolutely nobody, Sokratis had a hefty 2.3 tackles per match. The rest of his stats are solid as well.

It should be noted that these figures can be deceiving. For example, a player is more likely to have a lot of clearances if they’re in a perpetual state of defending. This is why Aytac Sulu has twice the clearances as Mats Hummels.

Of course, no one can summarize Sokratis’ season without bringing up this stunner:

That ball did not spin one inch. Insane.

The Bad

While Sokratis is for the most part a very consistent player, there were some matches where his performances left a lot to be desired. The ones that come to my mind are the away loss to Leverkusen, the away loss to Bayern, and to a lesser extent the home loss to Monaco (I can’t hold that against anyone given the circumstances). The club’s vulnerability to set pieces is well documented, and as a center back Sokratis should at least partially be held accountable for this.

All of this is a bit pedantic to me, because I really don’t think Sokratis was at fault for Dortmund’s defensive struggles. Adding to the fact that we’ve never been a strong defensive club, is the fact that Sokratis never really had a consistent center-back to work with, because at any moment one of Schmelzer, Piszczek, Bartra, Ginter, and Bender could have been his partners.

The Future

Sokratis will likely return next season, and he should definitely be given the starting spot. I’m less bullish than most about the arrival of Omer Toprak, especially after the season that Bartra had, but injuries should be expected. If our center backs remain healthy, it is entirely possible that Dortmund have one of the best back lines in Germany next season.