This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Arsenal will face Eintracht Frankfurt in their first game of this season’s Europa League, and they will be looking to start off with a win at the Commerzbank Arena.
Stopping Filip Kostic will be essential if they are to get anything from the encounter.
After a fantastic season last time out, which saw them reach the semi-finals of this very competition, the Eagles had a difficult summer. Star men Sebastien Haller, Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic all departed the club and, while they were able to bring in some new faces, it remains to be seen if they have managed to replace their quality.
However, perhaps their most important player is still at the club.
Kostic was in fine form last term, and if the Gunners are to come away from Germany with a result, they will need to keep the Serbia international quiet.
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The trio of Haller, Jovic and Rebic claimed the large majority of last season’s headlines, and rightly so. After all, they did score 57 goals and provide 25 assists between them in all competitions. Kostic, though, flew under the radar somewhat, despite netting 10 strikes and creating 13 himself.
There has been one distinct difference between the two terms, and that is in regards to his crossing frequency. Last season, he averaged 1.4 per game – which led to four assists, more than double what any of his teammates could produce from such situations – but that number has risen to 2.3 this term. That puts him in the top 10 for the whole division.
Such an abundance of balls in from the flank would only make sense if the players in the box were comfortable in the air. Fortunately for Adi Hutter and co, there is more than enough aerial prowess between Bas Dost and Goncalo Paciencia. In the last three full campaigns, the former has scored 26 league goals with his head, while all three of the latter’s strikes last term came with that part of the body.
Stopping Kostic, therefore, should be at the top of Emery’s to-stop list. If they allow him to get into his groove down the left-wing and pepper the area with precise crosses, then it could be a long night for the Arsenal defence.