By Edward Stratmann
Arsenal's acquisition of the battle-hardened, ultra-experienced Stephan Lichtsteiner is a shrewd piece of business.
Joining on a free from Juventus, where he enjoyed a successful seven seasons that saw him win seven Serie A titles, four Coppa Italias, and three Italian Supercoppas, the 34-year-old adds leadership and depth to the squad.
Lichtsteiner is intimidating and imposing for any attacker to come up against. Never one to give his man easy touches, the uncompromising defender applies touch-tight pressure aggressively to ensure they can't receive possession cleanly or turn him.
If they do happen to take control, he'll jostle and use his strength to look to unbalance them, in order to force an error or generate a turnover.
In scenarios when his opponent attempt dangerous runs in behind, Lichtsteiner remains aware, constantly performing head scans to get a freshly updated mental imagery of where to position himself so he can tailor his position accordingly.
If not tracking a nearby opponent, the former Lazio star takes up sound positions and stays concentrated in anticipation of any impending threats. Indeed, having worked under Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri during his time in Turin, it's hardly surprising he's so accomplished in this regard.
It's important to note how willing he is to track back to support his team-mates, ensuring he does his utmost to limit threats. Moreover, his aptitude at defending in 1v1 battles, where he uses his frame and long legs to good effect, means he's ready to respond smartly to nullify his opponents from this base. With a wonderful leap and good judgement, he holds his own in aerial confrontations too.
In terms of his attacking output, Lichtsteiner contributes with his marauding forward surges that stretch backlines and provide crucial width, serving as the most eye-catching element of his work. Choosing his moments well as to when to burst upfield, he times and directs his runs expertly to wreak havoc.
Key to this comes from him often instigating his movements on the blindside of his tracker, so they don't have a permanent lock on his location. This gives him the upper hand, seeing him have far greater momentum than his awkwardly oriented and more stationary opponent to latch on to passes first.
Furthermore, he'll perform interchanges with his winger to unsettle defensive structures, where his winger will drop deep towards the ball and Lichtsteiner will charge forward, thus creating a moment of indecision for their respective markers on who to track.
Once in possession, he's a competent passer, who can deliver incisive passes into the feet of attackers, both in the air and on the floor, plus switch the angle of attack coolly and slow things down if need be by recycling possession cleanly. His crossing stands out too, where he weights his deliveries nicely, and is very accurate and adept at using both feet.
His statistics from last season aptly depict his worth in both phases of the game, as, per 90 minutes, he delivered: 3.24 headers won, 4.11 interceptions, 1.55 successful sliding tackles, 1.25 clearances, 2.72 accurate crosses, 2.01 dribbles, 2.08 progressive runs and completed 51.88 passes.
Disciplined, relentless, tactically astute and mentally strong, Lichtsteiner is a neat fit for the meticulously structured Emery and his plans to lead Arsenal to great things next term.
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