Speaking in an exclusive interview given to Evening Standard journalist James Olley, Stephan Lichtsteiner admitted that staying at the Emirates past this summer would be “very difficult”.
The 35-year-old defender arrived on a free transfer from Juventus last summer, and having made 23 appearances in all competitions (19 starts) and scoring a single goal, it looks like the upcoming Europa League final against Chelsea will be the last game which he might be involved in as an Arsenal player. The contract he signed upon arrival was one set to last one year, with the club having an option to extend it for another 12 months. Lichtsteiner himself doesn’t expect that to happen at the moment, and Standard’s sources apparently feel the same way.
Such a development is hardly surprising, given everything we’ve seen from the Swiss international over the course of the season. Although he was brought in to act as a deputy for first choice Hector Bellerin on the right defensive flank, he has had plenty of chances to make his contribution with the Spaniard’s season being heavily hit with injuries. Lichtsteiner’s performances were of such level that manager Unai Emery at one point opted to utilize centre-back Shkodran Mustafi as a right-back rather than put his trust in him, quite apart from the fact that young Ainsley Maitland-Niles has developed into an all-round right-sided player.
Lichtsteiner insists that his future is of secondary importance now, and rightly so with winning the Europa League being the absolute priority. He added that he would love to do that and get the club playing Champions League football again.
A highly commendable attitude; but there simply isn’t much point in having him in the squad anymore. He is arguably the first name Arsenal need an upgrade on come the transfer window, especially given Bellerin’s injury issues.