Stephan Lichtsteiner says Unai Emery’s one big problem at Arsenal was the way he dealt with the top players at the club.
Stephan Lichtsteiner joined Arsenal under Unai Emery in the summer of 2018. The Swiss international only lasted a season, before running down his initial contract and moving to FC Augsburg. He made 23 appearances for the Gunners.
Considering Unai Emery only managed a few more months before leaving the club himself, Lichtsteiner is still pretty well placed to evaluate his former head coach’s time in North London.
The 35-year-old believes the two big issues were the way Emery deals with big players and the squad’s inexperience.
“I’d say [he is] a good trainer, a good coach, but maybe he struggled with the top players,” Lichtsteiner said. “With the big players, he hasn’t maybe the relationship to bring more out [of them] and get the top performances.
“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. 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 he should be a leader directly, it’s quite difficult. At Juventus, we had Chiellini, me, Marchisio. We grew up next to Pirlo, next to Buffon, next to 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.”
It’s hard to argue with Lichtsteiner’s assessment of Emery’s biggest problems at Arsenal. His high-profile fall-out with Mesut Özil and the captaincy issue set him on the track to the sack this season.
The Gunners do have some experienced players in the squad, though perhaps they all have their drawbacks.
The likes of David Luiz and Sokratis Papastathopoulos only arrived in the last year or so. Mesut Özil isn’t exactly an outgoing leader. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is popular with the squad but he’s a fantastic goalscoring poacher, not the heart of the team.
That’s the entire list of players 30 or over, with Nacho Monreal, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Lichtsteiner, Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny all leaving this summer. Other Premier League-experienced stars like Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck also left.
How Arsenal fix that problem is something they’ll have to figure out themselves.