Unai Emery’s first signing (before bringing in the likes of Lucas Torreira) was a persistent Serie A champion. Coming from Juventus, where he won the league in seven consecutive years, won four Coppa Italia’s and many more, Stephan Lichtsteiner seems like the perfect addition to the Arsenal’s squad. Bringing that winning mentality and leadership may be crucial for the young talents at the Emirates as there is no other player with so many accomplishments among them.
The 34-year old will try to replace the ex-captain Per Mertesacker as a leading figure on and off the pitch. At least that is what all hopes for. As a right-back, we can’t tell if he is going to be in the starting XI each game, but he surely will add a massive quality to the squad. There is going to be a competition with Hector Bellerin for the right back spot because of the similarities in their play but his arrival should help the team as the Spaniard is going to have a bigger motivation and play on his full potential.
Playing in three different leagues – Swiss Super league, French Ligue 1 and Italian Serie A and his country Switzerland is an impressive achievement that has certainly made his confidence grow and you could easily see it in the way he plays. Exactly such experience is what The Gunners need on the pitch.
Style of play
Lichtsteiner is a complex player and he can perform brilliantly in different areas of the field. Apart from staying on the right and pressing every player who tries to reach the box, he loves going upfield and helping his teammates to build-up the attack. Despite his defensive position he doesn´t often dive into tackles and is mostly using his physical strength and good dribbling to apply pressure on his opponents. His warrior-like spirit always helps in a moment of trouble as Stephan regularly saves his teammates in crucial times. He often goes on the blindside of the defenders, so they can’t always locate him properly and fail in blocking his attempts.
The new signing tries to confuse his markers as he often changes positions with the winger.
Lichtsteiner’s most common position is on the right-back but sometimes he is used as a defensive midfielder and moves all along the right side of the field.
The Swiss international plays aggressively against every player and always tries to keep the possession of the ball. He is into making short passes and into distracting his opponents. Although this is his strongest skill, his long-range passes are outrageous too and are a perfect showing of his football intelligence. His dribble and ball-protection are excellent. Unbalancing the attacking players and winning back the possession is one of his best abilities. The new Gunner has a high level of concentration and he notices every move on the pitch.
He makes lots of key passes and often happens to be in a great position to assist. His crossing is really good too – both in the air and on the floor. Lichtsteiner contributes in the front lines as he repeatedly goes upfield and is a great backing for the attacking players.
Key passes and crosses
His contribution in every phase of the game often finishes with a great opportunity in front of the goal. As I mentioned his crosses are always greatly measured and seeing the best option for a dangerous pass is his specialty.
Here he goes upfield and lures the defenders. He already has two options for a key pass – Paolo Dybala and Mario Mandžukić. Lichtsteiner’s decision-making is strong and he quickly decided to pass to Mario who is in a better position to shoot and has a stronger header.
Here is another example of his incredible vision:
Lichtsteiner, Mandžukić, Dybala and Douglas Costa are all running upfield. The right-back is gaining momentum and is waiting to receive the ball from Costa.
At the moment of the pass, you can see that Lichtsteiner and Dybala are on the same line. And Stephan has three options for a key pass – Mandžukić, Matuidi or to give it back to Costa. Or at least that is what Cagliari’s defenders were expecting.
Actually, he made a short pass back to Dybala (who was left uncovered and intentionally didn’t move forward) and the Argentinian international had a great opportunity to score.
The Swiss international receives the ball before crossing the centre and a few dribbles later he shows wonderful vision. Despite choosing the expected action and passing to Dybala or Khedira, he saw the opportunity in a long-range pass to Gonzalo Higuain who ran forward to receive the ball right at the edge of the penalty area.
In this international game between Switzerland and Northern Ireland, Lichtsteiner contributes in the build-up. He realized that he will do a better job with a long-range pass across the centre, having in mind that Shaqiri is fast enough to reach the ball while their teammates place themselves on a better position.
1 vs 1 and dribbling
When Lichtsteiner carries the possession and tempts the players to attack him, he forges a passing lane by moving them out of the defensive position.
Here he receives the ball and goes 1 vs 1 with the opponent. After that, he managed to escape the pressing duel with a great dribble and went forward to go 1 vs 1 again and win the offensive duel keeping the possession of the ball.
In this offensive duel, he managed to lure the defender pretending that he is going to the left. But he kicked the ball behind the opponent’s back (to his right) so he freed himself going to the left and reaching the ball again.
Aerial duels and tackling
Despite being good at the defensive duels and pressing, the ex-Juventus defender often finds trouble winning his aerial duels. As I mentioned he rarely dives into tackles too.
Overall Stephan Lichtsteiner will help with his strong mentality and his tactical knowledge. He will also add some competition among the players which is good, because Unai Emery may not be confident in players that don’t show enough hustle playing for Arsenal.