Arsenal and Stephan Lichtsteiner: The sensible over the sublime

Arsenal are reportedly set to sign Juventus right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer this summer. It is a sensible, but not sublime signing. And that, actually, is quite alright.

Arsenal are nearing their first signing of the summer. That sentence immediately makes the heart flutter. Unfortunately, though, the name does not match the same level of excitement.

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According to a wide range of reports, stemming from David Ornstein, Stephan Lichtsteiner is set to sign with the Gunners on a free transfer this summer after his contract with current club Juventus has expired. It is not exactly that high-profile splash that many may have been hoping for.

But I believe an element of realism must take place here. The Gunners do not have the budget of a Manchester City, Manchester United or even Liverpool. They cannot, like Pep Guardiola last year, go out and sign three full-backs, each for £25 million-plus. They do not have those kinds of funds and they have too many substantial holes elsewhere that require resources to plough a significant amount into a reserve right-back.

Lichtsteiner will enter the squad as Hector Bellerin’s reserve. It is a position that I had been concerned with last season, forecasting the ramifications of a long-term Bellerin injury, understanding that there was a direct replacement for the Spaniard in the squad. But now there is. Yes, Lichtsteiner, at 34, is not quite the athletic specimen that he used to be, bounding up and down the right flank. But as an experienced, proven, committed reserve, there are few better. And few cheaper.

Details of wages are yet to be released. It is improbable that they ever will be. But given that there will be no fee, it is fair to assume that the total cost of this signing will be minimal. That likelihood is only compounded by the fact that Lichtsteiner is 34, will not be a starting player, and therefore cannot command a starting salary, and will only be given a one or two-year deal. This will be a very cheap acquisition indeed.

And it will be a useful one also. Bellerin played more than 3000 Premier League minutes last season. In all competitions, he topped 4000 minutes. Only Granit Xhaka also topped 4000 minutes in all competitions this season in the Arsenal squad. In fact, Bellerin ranks 41st in Premier League minutes played last season in a position where he is expected to cover a vast amount of ground. He needs rest. Lichtsteiner can provide it.

Is this a fancy, splashy signing that everyone can get all excited about? No. It’s not. But that does not mean that it isn’t a smart addition. It’s sensible, not sublime, and that’s quite alright with me.