Should Chelsea swoop for Juventus' Stephan Lichsteiner?
In a novel departure from the endless Diego Costa rumours, which may have actually already become a saga, it recently emerged that Chelsea are keeping tabs on Juventus’ Stephan Lichtsteiner, a move that would cost the Blues a relatively small sum of £6.5million.
Though often referred to as a right-back, Lichtsteiner has often operated as right-sided wing-back at Juve within the three-at-the-back system preferred by Antonio Conte, one you wouldn’t expect to see Mourinho dabble with any time soon. In fact, even when the Juve boss has deviated from the 3-5-2, most recently against Benfica during their Europa League semi-final exit, the Swiss is sometimes pushed up into a more fixed attacking role, while Uruguay’s Martin Caceras occupies the full-back positon.
Nevertheless, tactical and positional re-adjustment is a problem for any player who would join a new club and, anyway, need not be a concern in this case. Lichsteiner has functioned as a traditional right-back throughout his career and still does so for the Switzerland international side.
As far as transfer rumours go, though, what really chimes in this particular case is just how much a Mourinho type of player Lichtsteiner appears. It is true the ex-Lazio wide-man possesses an astonishing work-rate, will bomb up and down the touchline for 90 minutes and is nicknamed both the ‘Swiss Express’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ among Bianconeri supporters. Yet, not in your James Milner honest grafter sense (though, actually, this label is unhelpfully reductive in the Englishman’s case) but with the same driven, desperate-to-win character typified by the Chelsea boss.
He may look like Lee Evans (slightly) but, by some accounts, Lichtsteiner has a bit of a nasty streak. He may be tireless, though can also be temperamental and is unafraid of adopting underhanded tactics such as manhandling at set-pieces, as was the case during Juventus’ 3-0 victory over Celtic in the Champions League last year, or even, reportedly, insulting and riling opponents (ask Erik Lamela).
Despite this tailor-made appeal, from the Portuguese boss’ point of view, he would be competing with another of Mourinho’s favourites, Branislav Ivanovic, against whom Lichtsteiner receives an absolute pasting in terms of combative attributes.
Furthermore, the kind of technical ability and skills in retaining possession that Willian can boast is streets ahead of Lichtsteiner, who recorded a pass completion rate of 78% in Seria A last season and 68% in the Champions League.
Creative output, though, is where Lichtsteiner’s track-record surpasses his Serbian counterpart. The Juventus star has assisted eight goals last term, which is a more than any other player at Chelsea. This, however, is as much a sorry reflection on the Blues’ ability to produce decent chances and finish them throughout the campaign as it is a testament to Lichtsteiner’s talents in crossing and surging runs into the box.
However, a scarcity of assists to show for a stunted title charge rarely finds its solution in acquiring a right-back to provide. Chelsea, in fact, created more chances than Liverpool last season, 506 to 488. It is, as basically everyone knows, a striker that’s needed, someone to actually finish them.
In any case, the departure of Ashley Cole and the fact Cesar Azpilicueta is naturally right sided indicates it’s over on the left where Chelsea need bodies.
Currently, Chelsea don’t seem to have this kind of incisive long or over-the-top ball specialist to accommodate Lichtsteiner, nor do they have the tactical set-up, which means bringing him on board won’t necessarily be a neat-and-tidy transition.
Yet, this isn’t to say it would be a failure. As previously stated, the aforementioned qualities in determination, if not in actual skill, are an attribute the Chelsea manager is fond of; someone who will sacrifice themselves for the team.
Question is, what’s £6.5 million worth to you, Jose?