The most glaring deficiency in Arsenal’s game throughout the 2017-2018 season was the defense. Silly mistakes and a porous back line saw the Gunners consistently leaking goals.
The once reliable partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny is no more. Mertesacker has retired and Koscielny is facing months on the sidelines following Achilles surgery.
If ever there was a time for a rebuild it is now. Therefore it’s no surprise that the first signing under new boss Unai Emery was a defender. 34-year-old Stephan Lichtsteiner joined Arsenal on a free transfer from Juventus. While not the type of flashy signing that most fans would like to see, the move is an indication that the club is intent on addressing its defensive problems. It is also expected that Borussia Dortmund defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos will sign shortly.
Lichtsteiner and Papastathopoulos will bring valuable experience from top European teams. Both also have extensive international experience for their country’s national side. The other vital characteristic that both are expected to bring is a winning mentality. Lichtsteiner is the Swiss captain and part of seven Serie A champion Juventus teams. Papastathopoulos has 79 caps for Greece.
They will also serve as mentors to Arsenal’s core of young defenders including Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac and Konstantinos Mavropanos. It is yet to be seen whether Shkodran Mustafi will remain in North London. If he does, he would greatly benefit from the experience of the two veterans as he became the poster boy for Arsenal’s back line troubles.
In his first Arsenal interview Lichtsteiner spoke of his desire to lead by example:
I hope I can bring a lot of that mentality. It’s a little bit of the same project that I did seven years ago with Juventus. Juventus also, for two times, didn’t qualify for the Champions League. I hope I can bring a lot of experience, a lot of mentality and together, with my team, come back to the highest level of the Champions League.
It’s clear that Unai Emery has just begun his defensive overhaul. The latest rumor is that the Spaniard is interested in signing right back Lukas Klostermann from Leipzig. Arsenal fans are still hoping for that big name signing that will show real intent on the club’s part.