So far the summer of 2018 has been a massive one in terms of change for Arsenal. Part of that change is how early we’ve done some of our transfer business as Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sokratis were all confirmed before the start of pre season.
However, are those additions in defence exciting as we transition into a new Arsenal era? For me, not particularly, as with both in their 30’s its hard to see them having a massive impact on the pitch. At first glance they almost seem too similar to the signing of Petr Cech which has proved to be very underwhelming. But anyway, here are my thoughts on our two new defenders.
Personally, even though he is the older of the two, the signing of Lichtsteiner impressed me much more than that of Sokratis. Going into this season at 34 years of age some may be cautious about this signing due to his fitness but I’m pretty sure that won’t be a problem.
This is because Hector Bellerin has been our number one right back for three and a half years now and with him being given the number two there’s no chance of that changing soon. Therefore meaning Lichtsteiner will come into the side as a result of rotation, something Bellerin hasn’t had much of in his Arsenal career.
Also, with Lichtsteiner playing out at least 87 minutes in each of his three World Cup appearances he’s proved that he’s still got an engine good enough to perform at the top level.
Another thing that help the fear of his age is his injury record. Since turning 30 in January 2014 he’s only missed 13 games due to injury. A record most Arsenal players would be proud of in the same time period.
Possibly the biggest reason why his arrival encourages me, however, is how he can help Bellerin. As I said earlier, Bellerin has pretty much been the senior right back at Arsenal since he broke into the side. Now, he won’t just have competition but someone who can mentor him too. Having won 17 major trophies in his career there’s plenty Bellerin can learn from the Swiss. Whether its subtle things such as the dark arts which may see the Spaniard add an edge to his game and make big changes or sharing more detailed experiences which could improve Bellerin’s game.
Overall, I’m happy with the signing of Lichtsteiner, especially as it was on a free, and look forward to seeing what he brings to the side.
Now, in the case of Sokratis, I’m less encouraged but nevertheless can get behind the signing.
It’s the worst kept secret in football that Arsenal have needed to address their defence and at centre back in particular. People may have thought that was the case with the arrival of Shkodran Mustafi a couple of years ago but that hasn’t been the case. Time and again he has made silly mistakes which have cost us and despite looking solid at times, just isn’t consistent enough.
With Laurent Koscielny out for the foreseeable future at least one new centre back was needed we’ve got one in Sokratis who will most probably be one of our starters come the beginning of the season.
More of an aggressive centre back than Mustafi, although being less likely to step out (Mustafi made 57 interceptions last year compared to his 35), Sokratis seems like he will be able to take charge of the back-line with more ease. Winning 66% of his aerial duels last season, he’s strong in the air and having been listed as third in line for the Dortmund captaincy, he definitely has a voice. He does actually speak English well so it could make a difference.
However, with Mustafi apparently on his way out of Arsenal, I’d hope to see the money used for another centre back. Before the summer we were told we had £50m-£70m to spend and around £36m has already been spent. Therefore if we do manage to shift Mustafi, which would hopefully be for a profit (we signed him for £35m), I’d hope that our marquee summer signing will be an established central defender that can make the defence his own.
Even if that doesn’t happen though, at least Sokratis can play a similar role to Lichtsteiner off and on the pitch in helping the younger players come of age. Especially his countryman Konstantinos Mavropanos who impressed during the back end of last season.