Why the arrival of Sead Kolasinac means Arsene Wenger must persist with a 3-4-3 formation?
Although Arsenal supporters will undoubtedly be licking their lips at the prospect of Alexandre Lacazette taking to the Emirates pitch this year, it is another signing that has been quietly impressing.
Sead Kolasinac, the 23-year-old Bosnian defender, arrived from Bundesliga side FC Schalke as Arsenal’s only other signing so far this summer and it is fair to say he’s made quite the impression.
Yes it’s only been a few pre-season cameo appearances, and yes it’s hard to read too much into performances and results, but Kolasinac seems to have settled in straight away and looks like he could become a real asset as Arsenal look for an improved season after last years’ disappointment in the Premier League.
The Bosnian took to the Emirates field for the first time on Saturday afternoon for the Gunners’ Emirates Cup opener against a strong Benfica side, and he – along with the young Reiss Nelson – stood out.
He was calm and composed on the ball, happy to keep things ticking along in his designated left wing-back role, but in the blink of an eye he would be able to turn on the after-burners and drive with intent.
It was an incredibly open and entertaining game for a pre-season friendly – as the eventual 5-2 score-line in Arsenal’s favour suggests – and Kolasinac revelled in it, joining the attack and linking up with the more advanced Alex Iwobi whenever possible.
He was involved in both of Arsenal’s first-half goals, showing vast levels of persistence and determination in the Benfica area to shrug off challenges, hit the by-line and find Theo Walcott in the area.
Yet although his attacking nature will no doubt reap its rewards this season, his stocky build and physical presence also hints that he’ll be more than adept in defence, shrugging off his man easily.
There were a few moments where he had an error of judgement and a lack of communication with Arsenal’s central defensive trio, but with more time and a consistent line-up (most likely to include Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding) he could strike up a really strong partnership.
And the emergence of Kolasinac has, essentially, given boss Arsene Wenger little choice but to persist with his wing-back system from the end of last season, utilising the Bosnian on the left wing.
With Kolasinac, Koscielny, Mustafi – plus one of Holding, Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal – alongside either Hector Bellerin or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, it’s a potentially exciting back five.
Considering the fact that Kolasinac arrived on a free transfer from Schalke – despite still only being 23-years-old – makes Arsenal’s coup even more impressive, and he’s definitely one to watch out for.