This article is part of Football FanCast’s Off the Bench series, which places in-game managerial decisions and squad selections under FFC’s microscope.
Amidst a run of no wins in their previous nine games across all competitions, Arsenal got back into their old groove with an impressive comeback victory against West Ham on Monday night.
The Gunners have endured a miserable start to the season, with their Europa League defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt proving to be the end of Unai Emery’s tenure at the club. Club legend Freddie Ljungberg was named as interim head coach, but failed to see the proverbial new manager bounce in his opening two games in charge, drawing away at Norwich, before losing at home to Brighton.
And after going a goal down to West Ham courtesy of a deflected Angelo Ogbonna goal, Ljungberg may have been fearing the worst. But in a stirring second-half performance, the Gunners got back to winning ways thanks to strikes from Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But whilst the trio will no doubt take a lot of the credit for the win, Sead Kolasinac’s enforced introduction mid-way through the first-half proved to be decisive.
The fact that Kolasinac wasn’t even in the match-day squad at the beginning of the night makes his impressive performance all the more remarkable. The Bosnian was at London Stadium probably readying himself for a cold evening on the touch-line with his snood, but found himself onto the bench at the last moment thanks to Hector Bellerin’s late withdrawal from the warm-up. The 26-year-old would then be forced to come on for an injured Kieran Tierney in the first-half, and his arrival heralded a much-needed change in emphasis for the Gunners.
Rather understandably perhaps, the north London side seemed lacking in confidence and almost afraid to commit too many forward. It was telling that in the time he was on the pitch Tierney didn’t manage a single successful dribble. The Gunners were more worried about their defensive responsibilities rather than trying to push men forward. But in Kolasinac, Ljungberg’s side had a presence on the pitch whose first thought was always to give Martinelli an overlapping option, and it was no surprise to see the £18m-rated man provide the assist for the crucial equaliser.
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As per Sofascore, Kolasinac would finish the game with one successful dribble, one key pass, one big chance created, and one accurate cross. Not to mention that assist too. Arsenal were in dire need of someone to stand up and take responsibility and leadership for the side. And in their marauding left-back, they got exactly that.