Why Lia Walti is so important to Arsenal Women
- Credit: PA
Arsenal's Lia Walti has always been one of those underrated players in the Women's Super League.
When Jonas Eidevall came in, it was safe to say she got off to a slow start under the new Gunners boss.
However, as the season has progressed the Swiss international has shown just how important she is and why she is truly one of the most important players for the north London side.
Walti has had to adapt to a new role in the midfield under Eidevall due to his much more aggressive high pressing approach to the game.
When Walti isn’t there it is very easy to see that Arsenal struggle in midfield without her anchoring the base of it and protecting the midfield.
One example of a game in which she was really missed was the Wolfsburg Champions League quarter-final tie away from home.
Jill Roord, Lena Oberdorf and Lena Lattwein played through Arsenal’s middle third without Walti who undoubtedly is the glue that holds things together as Eidevall's side exited Europe's elite competition after losing 2-0 in Germany and 3-1 on aggregate.
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The 29-year-old has lots of good skill sets, but one that has become more evident this season is her pressing and dynamic nature that has improved as the season has progressed.
In the Women’s Super League this season the defensive midfielder has played 16 times, and has two assists to her name as Arsenal are locked into a title challenge with London rivals Chelsea.
This season she has played 1227 minutes in the league and if not for a few niggling injuries she would have added to that tally.
Per 90 minutes Walti completes 94 per cent of her passes, as she attempts an average of 96 per match which is extremely high and shows just how composed she is with the ball at her feet.
Walti also completed 97 per cent progressive passes and carries, showing how influential she can be in the attacking play.
Arsenal’s number 13 is key to breaking the lines and slotting in the attacking players such as Vivianne Miedema and Stina Blackstenius.
Per 90 minutes she wins 80 per cent of her tackles showing that she is a tough character to get past, and she is crucial for Arsenal in turning over the possession and hitting teams on the counter attack.
Walti also makes 89 per cent blocks per game, showing her clear defensive awareness and that she is always thinking ahead of the opponent.
This season, she is taking over two more touches per 90 in the final third, while her interceptions are up from 1.26 per 90 last season to 2.26.
Over the season, Walti has arguably been Arsenal’s most improved player due to how she has slotted into a new system and improved a number of attributes to her game.
Only Leah Williamson completes more passes for Gunners, but Walti dictates the tempo of the play in her position and when needed has also played in defence.
Due to Eidevall’s recruitment that hasn’t been needed this season, but 2021-22 has been another fine campaign for the Swiss international who will look to end the season strongly before heading to Euro 2022 in the summer.