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In early January, English giants Arsenal signed relatively unknown Greek centre-back Konstantinos Mavropanos from Super League outfit PAS Giannina for a reported 2.1 million euros.
Mavropanos wasn’t a familiar face before the deal was announced, but football fans in Greece have enjoyed watching the 20-year old progress.
Despite already being 20, this is only Mavropanos’ second year of playing football at the top level. On 29 November 2016, Mavropanos was handed his senior debut by PAS Giannina, competing in a Greek Cup match. Nevertheless, since that date, the Greek has impressed enough to be touted as Greece’s most promising young footballer of his generation.
Born in Athens, Mavropanos started his career with the Apollon Smyrnis academy, spending eight years at the club between 2008 and 2016. However, he then opted to join PAS Giannina, a club which generally finishes mid-table in the Super League – Greece’s highest footballing tier.
After making his first appearance in the Greek Cup, Mavropanos has participated in sixteen Super League matches over the past two seasons, even scoring three goals along the way.
Standing at 192 cm tall, Mavropanos predictably possesses an excellent prowess in the air. Not surprisingly, all of Mavropanos’ goals in the Super League have been brilliant headers. He does his job well at the back too, being able to outmuscle his opponents and overpower them with his sheer strength. The Greek refuses to be beaten, stands his ground solidly and can make impressive tackles.
Still, at such a young age, Mavropanos is far from the finished article. Transferring to the fast, aggressive English game, he won’t have time to dawdle on the ball and pick out teammates without any pressure. Taking into account he’s signed for Arsenal, a possession based team, Mavropanos has to learn how to use the ball wisely when it’s at his feet.
When initially joining Arsenal, head coach Arsene Wenger stated that Mavropanos would immediately be sent out on loan to gain valuable experience. It looked certain that he would be given to German club Werder Bremen until the summer, but Wenger seems to have gone back on his word and is keen to keep Mavropanos in London.
On Monday, he played in his first match in England, competing for Arsenal’s under 23 side against Manchester United. Mavropanos put on a promising display, showing competent ability with the ball and having a goalbound shot from distance blocked.
A real problem which Mavropanos will encounter is the expectations being placed upon his shoulders.
Playing in an average PAS Giannina team, any minor mistake or poor performance could be excused, but things will be completely different at Arsenal. The Gunners already have huge defensive issues, meaning that supporters won’t hesitate to get on Mavropanos’ back.
A loan deal at another club in a top European league might have helped the defender, but it does appear that Mavropanos will be thrown in the deep end. It remains to be seen how often Wenger uses him in senior Premier League matches, or if he will play out the remainder of the season with Arsenal’s reserves.
Whatever happens, a bright future awaits the next in the long line of successful Greek defenders. With Kostas Manolas and Sokratis Papastathopoulos among Europe’s best centre-backs, Mavropanos is aiming to follow in their footsteps.
Assuming his head stays focused, he really does have the potential to become a key part of Arsenal.
Written by Shaun Nicolaides
Follow Shaun on Twitter @zenitfan93
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