The predominantly positive reaction from Arsenal supporters to the announcement of the arrival of thirty four year old Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer from Juventus, serves to illustrate the significant change in the mindset of those associated with the club, following Arsene’s long awaited and much needed departure.
For had Wenger remained as our manager for the forthcoming season, I have no doubt that the announcement of Lichtsteiner as the clubs first summer signing, would have been met with disapproval by supporters. That and a combination of disappointment, frustration and in some instances, anger.
Perhaps justifiably so, when the majority of the clubs supporters had grown increasingly tired of Wenger’s negligent transfer policies year after year. Stephan is the first signing of the Emery era but I’m confident he won’t be the last and that he will be joined by others before the closure of the transfer window.
Ignoring the obvious deficiencies in the squad by signing just a solitary player and one who has already entered his thirties at that, for the duration of a transfer window, unfortunately wasn’t beyond the realms of possibilities throughout the second half of Arsene’s tenure. Kim Kallstrom anyone?
However, this is not to say that the arrival of Lichtsteiner is without any concern. Will he settle, can he adapt to English football and is he way beyond his best? All questions that will be answered in due course. In an ideal world, as fans of The Arsenal, we all want to see us signing players who are either at their peak, approaching it or ones who are still young in footballing terms but capable of making an immediate impact.
Provided that he’s not our only new arrival this summer, his capture on a free transfer, could in time, prove to be a shrewd piece of business on the clubs behalf. Particularly as it has become increasingly evident in recent years, that several of our players have been happily living in the comfort zone and need a a big metaphorical kick up the backside.
The main rival for Stephan’s right back slot, Hector Bellerin, is one of them. Had Arsene stayed as manager, I would have considered selling Hector. Under the new manager and his coaching staff, hopefully Hector will stop going backwards as a footballer and start to develop as one again. Whilst Wenger wasn’t the man to bring out the best in him or help improve his positional sense, it’s a possibility that Lichtsteiner could be.
If a young player can’t learn from a man who is vastly experience at the top level, having won near 100 Switzerland international caps and brings with him a winning mentality that has helped his previous clubs win 8 league titles (1 Swiss and 7 Italian), they’re probably a lost cause. Lichtsteiner can also still play a bit too, as he demonstrated when he came on as substitute on the hour against Spurs at Wembley in last seasons Champions League and helped to change the game in his teams favour.
For years supporters have criticised the club for failing to bring in experience players and proven winners. However, it appears that we are now focusing on doing exactly that. I’ve never had an issue with us signing promising youngsters but we have to do both, not one or the other. I welcome Stephan to the club and regardless of his age, we have to give him a chance and hope that he will soon be joined by a new goalkeeper, a centre back and a holding midfielder at the very least.
Whilst Stan Kroenke retains ownership of the club, it is unrealistic to expect us to suddenly start spending big like Man City have done in recent years. All that I ask is for us to have a manager who is capable of consistently getting the best out of the players that we do have, picking the right team, making the right substitutions and has some tactical nous. Hopefully Emery is that man.
The reality is, Wenger’s poor management last season, left us in 6th place, without the Champions League for a second season in a row, a lack of on field leadership, requiring a new goalkeeper, defensive reinforcements and a recognised defensive midfielder. Not only that but we also have an owner who appears to be reluctant to spend big. Taking all of the above into consideration, as fans we need to ensure that we are realistic with our expectations. After all, we need learn to walk before we can run.
A free transfer might not be the most eye catching signing of the summer but it shouldn’t be forgotten that for all their wealth, it wasn’t too long ago that PSG signed Dani Alves on a free when he was 34….