Unai Emery’s first signing as Arsenal manager was Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner, who will join the Gunners on a free transfer following the World Cup finals.
The 34-year-old was out of contract at Juventus, where he spent seven seasons and won Serie A every single year he was in Turin. Lichtsteiner’s arrival adds experience to an Arsenal defence that can no longer call upon veteran Per Mertesacker going forward as he has retired and taken up a role with the Gunners academy.
Arsenal supporters tuning in to the World Cup in Russia can see how their new arrival Lichtsteiner gets on he leads the Swiss in a tough pool. Group E contains the tournament’s outright betting favourites Brazil, Costa Rica who surprised everyone four years ago with their memorable run to the last eight, and Serbia.
Lichtsteiner earned his 100th cap on the eve of the tournament as Vladimir Petkovic’s side took on fellow finalists Japan in their last World Cup warm-up friendly. As an attacking right back, Lichtsteiner will provide genuine competition for Hector Bellerin at the Emirates Stadium.
He won’t be the first Swiss player to turn out for the Gunners in the Premier League era either – that was Philippe Senderos – but the fourth. All the Arsenal names from Switzerland have occupied defensive positions.
Joined in the current national squad by former Gunners defender Johan Djourou and holding midfielder Granit Xhaka, Lichtsteiner is also alongside current English top-flight players Xherdan Shaqiri who endured relegation at Stoke City this past club season and West Ham United’s Edmilson Fernandes.
Given these Premier League connections, what are Switzerland’s chances under the on-pitch leadership of Lichtsteiner of getting out of their group? The Swiss have made the knockout phase at two of the last three World Cup finals, so they certainly have the back form.
They’re a best-price 6/5 with Sky Bet to advance to the last 16 and, having also done so at Euro 2016, their claims of progression should be respected. Winning the group is hard to imagine, however, as they already lie third after drawing with Brazil in their opening game.
For those of you looking for a value punt, both teams to score tips in Switzerland’s second game against Serbia is a serious shout at evens. Aleksandar Mitrovic may have dropped down a division to help Fulham get promoted back into the Premier League, but the big Serb striker is back in-form and his physical presence could cause problems for Lichtsteiner and the Swiss defence.
Switzerland complete their pool with a Costa Rica clash that they are betting favourites to win. As mentioned above, given the Central American country’s exploits during the last World Cup in Brazil, they cannot be underestimated.
Costa Rica have rather exposed themselves though and won’t have that underdog shock factor in such abundance this time. The superior strength-in-depth of the Swiss should see them through behind Brazil.