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He sparked the fight; they won the game: How Lichtsteiner transforming Arsenal

COMMENT: So who had the biggest influence at Emirates on Sunday? Big Soka at the back? Nah. The snappy, little terrier, Lucas Torreira? No. Then surely it's two-goal Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? Wrong again...

The one player to swing it for Arsenal. The one who set the tone for the day. Well, he didn't even get on the pitch. And no, we're not talking about Mesut Ozil.

It was the Swiss. Stephan Lichtsteiner. All 34 years of 'im. What a signing he has been.

Need to know how Arsenal have been transformed under Unai Emery this season? Lichtsteiner gave us the answer on Sunday. And on pure instinct. An instinct Arsenal fans haven't seen from their players since leaving Highbury. An attitude of 'I'm not having that'. It was natural. Nasty. Confrontational. Everything Arsenal have lacked in these recent years of managed decline.

On the half-hour Tottenham equalised. Eric Dier glancing home Christian Eriksen's free-kick. The celebration was passionate, but not over the top. Not even close. But as mentioned, Lichtsteiner was having none of it. As a substitute, he could've wheeled away and jogged back to the home dugout. But he didn't. He could've flashed a look at Emery as if to say 'if only you'd played me'. But he didn't. He could have shrugged and watched passively as opponents celebrated in front of him. Again, he didn't.

Instead, as Spurs players embraced Dier at the corner flag, he grabbed the back of Eriksen's shirt. He then gave Dele Alli a verbal volley. And before we knew it, it had all kicked off. No-one saw it coming. It was mad. Crazy. And nothing like the Arsenal we know.

But this is the new Arsenal. Emery's Arsenal. A manager who had the foresight. The genius. To bring in a player - at 34 - to set standards. Sunday at that corner flag being just the latest of interventions made by Lichtsteiner which are driving a new culture through this Gunners dressing room.

The Swiss has been seen tying the bootlaces of young teammates like Emile Smith Rowe. Of handing out water bottles from the touchline. Always involved. Always enthusiastic. No gesture is beneath him. And Emery knows, this all matters...

After all, Lichtsteiner is the most successful player on Arsenal's books. Captain of his country. Seven league titles with Juventus. Seven domestic Cups with three different clubs. If it's good enough for Lichtsteiner, then who is anyone inside London Colney to turn their nose up at doing the same?

All this matters. Setting an example. Being a role model. A serious pro. A winner. And most importantly, always wanting to be involved. You fancy, if Emery allowed it, Lichtsteiner would be shadowing his manager on the touchline, barking out orders and encouragement as much as the Basque.

You can't measure it in transfer fees. You can't really describe it accurately. But what Lichtsteiner brings to Arsenal. To a locker room that was in need of leadership and guidance. It matters.

What could Lichtsteiner have done for his old Juve coach Antonio Conte at Chelsea last season? Better yet, how would the Swiss' enthusiasm buttressed what Jose Mourinho is struggling to overcome inside Manchester United?

But would the top brass of either club have even allowed the discussion of adding a player of Lichtsteiner's age to their squad?

Of course, this is all speculation. The old man is an Arsenal player. A seven-time Juventus title winner who behaves like he was born a stone's throw from Highbury. It's crazy. Mad. But six months in and he's already Arsenal through-and-through. The biggest influence on this young squad. A leader by deed and word.

As Lichtsteiner and his teammates proved in the aftermath of Dier's goal on Sunday. Arsenal are no longer a soft touch. You don't celebrate like that at the Emirates. They're just not having it.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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