Arsenal have completed their first signing of the Unai Emery era by announcing the arrival of Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer.
At previous club Juventus, Lichtsteiner made 257 appearances over a seven-year period that saw the club win 14 major honours.
It is unsurprising therefore that the one-time Grasshopper academy graduate was very highly valued in Turin, with his extraordinary running power earning him nicknames such as “The Swiss Express” and even “Forrest Gump”.
There are valid concerns that his athleticism might have declined slightly at 34 and the statistics partially back that up.
The right-back managed 0.8 dribbles per 90 minutes in Serie A last season, which is not ideal considering the importance our full-backs will have in breaking down more defensive opposition.
What we will gain though from the Switzerland international, who captains his country at the World Cup, is experience and leadership in a back-line that currently has very little, considering Laurent Koscielny’s long-term injury.
Lichtsteiner is also very strong in the challenge: he has executed an impressive 80% of his tackles and only five players in his division made more, which seems impressive considering that he was deployed in a possession-based side.
Stephan was all smiles after being pictured in the new Arsenal jersey, of which his move will be finalized on July 1st. He had been assigned the no 12 jersey at Arsenal, which was last worn by Olivier Giroud, who left in January to join Chelsea. Arsenal will be hoping that Lichtsteiner hits the heights of Lauren, who is the last fullback to wear the number.
Speaking after the deal was announced, Emery said, “Stephan brings huge experience and leadership to our squad,” he told Arsenal.com. “He’s a player with great quality with a very positive and determined attitude. Stephan will improve us on and off the pitch.”
While Lichtsteiner might not be at the peak of his own career, he could play a valuable role in helping others hit the heights he once did.