New signing Sead Kolasinac was the hero on Sunday afternoon against Chelsea. He scored the equalizer that paved the way to yet another Community Shield win for Arsenal. He came on as a first half substitute for Per Mertesacker and has played as part of a back three numerous times throughout pre-season. Kolasinac spent the majority of last season at Schalke playing as a left wing back, getting forwards and using his considerable stockiness to muscle his way into the opposition final third, to create chances. But what will be the best position to utilise his considerable skill-set?
Kolasinac as a Wing-Back
In the 2016/2017 season at Schalke, Kolasinac produced five assists in the Bundesliga, which demonstrates his willingness to get forwards and produce opportunities for attackers ahead of him. No defensive minded player in the league produced more assists. His willingness and ability to get forward and create goals from deep is second to none in the German league, and with the wing back system employed by Arsenal, he could be a seriously effective influence on the left-hand side.
However, there are at least three significant factors that could stop the usage of Kolasinac as a left wingback. First, the competition for wingback places is high. Gibbs is still at the club and could be effective in that role. Monreal is still very much suited to the position, and Oxlaide-Chamberlain has been used on the left in recent weeks. It may be that a combination of these three factors leads to Kolasinac being used as a centre back.
Kolasinac as a Centre Back
Second, Arsenal currently have a minor injury crisis in the back line. With no Gabriel or Mustafi to start the season, and Mertesacker going off injured in the Community Shield, Arsenal are left with only Koscielny and Holding as recognized CB’s. Monreal has proven his ability in this role, while Elneny has been trialled in the back line (with minimal success), so it’s likely that for the short term at least, Kolasinac will be used in the back three.
Third and most importantly, Kolasinac could turn out to be a vital part of the Arsenal back three. His defensive abilities could not only compliment the Arsenal style but also compliment the style of the other defenders around him. Last year, Kolasinac was 20th for tackles made per game. This is high in a league that contains some of the world’s best dribblers and fast paced football. More significantly, he was the highest tackler in the whole Schalke team. So the stats show, he can get his foot in when he needs to. The difference, however, is that Kolasinac was 46th in the Bundesliga for conceding fouls. So for a player of his considerable stature, getting himself about and putting tackles in, he concedes minimal fouls. This could be invaluable alongside the occasionally reckless Koscielny and Xhaka.
What’s more, he was 11th in the league for interceptions, recording over 3 a game. This is a major part of Arsenals defensive play. A high line and advancing wingbacks, the central players need to be able to stop the ball getting past to maintain possession, and Kolasinac has proven that he has the ability to do just that.
Kolasinac as a key player
The stats show that Kolasinac can be utilised as a marauding wing back and can be trusted as a solid CB. Games like the Community Shield show this, despite being a stout man he is a devil in the air and quick on the ground. And, as mentioned, he doesn’t give needless fouls away. This could be a player with the grit and ruggedness that Arsenal have been lacking, without the occasional red mist seen by players like Xhaka.
There is one stat though, the most important of all, that should indicate the gem that Arsenal have picked up for free. In the league in 2016/2017, Kolasinac played 24 games. Of these 24, Schalke won 11. More importantly, those 11 wins were the only wins Schalke recorded all year. That is to say, with Kolasinac in the side, Schalke’s league win rate was 46%. Without Kolasinac it was 0%. Stats may not tell you the whole story, but how can you argue with that?