Stephan Lichtsteiner thinks Arsenal’s current squad lacks the experienced heads to help the club’s Academy talent flourish in high-pressure situations.
Lichtsteiner was recruited last summer for free after seven title-laden years at Juventus joining a squad that included the likes of Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey. This summer, all six left the club. While his impact may have been less high-profile, Henrikh Mkhitaryan also departed on loan.
The Switzerland international, who left Arsenal when his contract ended in the summer and has since joined Bundesliga side Augsburg, thinks the club have suffered as a result.
“Sometimes, an older player can manage the pressure and the criticism from the fans in another way from a young player.
“Last year, [despite] all the criticism I took, I was used, because I played for Juve and it was not different, I played for Lazio and it was not different.
“Now, I don’t see the players who can show the younger players how to manage being in a big club and having the pressure to win every weekend.
“Maybe that is something that Arsenal are missing.”
Lichtsteiner thinks that his compatriot Granit Xhaka has also suffered as a result. Elected captain by the players having been Unai Emery’s first choice for the role, the 27-year-old has since been stripped of the armband following his public falling out with the Emirates crowd during October’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
Lichtsteiner noted: “It is a problem for Arsenal: who can help a young player to become a leader, you know? For Granit, at 24 he came to Arsenal and [the idea that] he should be a leader directly, it’s quite difficult.
“At Juventus, we had [Giorgio] Chiellini, me, [Claudio] Marchisio. We grew up next to [Andrea] Pirlo, next to [Gianluigi] Buffon, next to [Alessandro] Del Piero. To get into a position like this, you need to have players around you and [to see] how they manage the pressure, how they do everything.”
Speaking a couple of days before Emery was sacked by Arsenal, Lichtsteiner, who was reticent to say a bad word about his former coach, did hint that the Spaniard suffered due to his inability to get the most out of his best players.
“I’d say [he is] a good trainer, a good coach, but maybe he struggled with the top players,” he said.
“With the big players, he hasn’t maybe the relationship to bring more out [of them] and get the top performances. Maybe that point I can say [something] negative, but the rest was almost everything positive.”
It’s definitely worth reading the full interview, which you can find here.