Sead Kolasinac has never quite hit the heights expected since arriving at Arsenal from FC Schalke on a free transfer, but his last few appearances for the Gunners have highlighted the crux of the problem. While the beastly Bosnian international becomes a dangerous weak link when he operates at No.3, moving him just a few yards up the pitch to wing-back suddenly showcases the qualities he brings to this Gunners team.
When Arsenal drew to Wolves prior the international break, Kolasinac’s performance was so disappointing that Unai Emery sacrificed him for Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the North Londoners sought to avoid an embarrassing defeat at home. Whoscored gave him a performance rating of just 5.3 as the 25-year-old failed to register a single tackle, successful dribble or created chance while managing just one interception.
But the switch to a three-man defence, which was perhaps influenced by Kolasinac’s struggles in a flat back four, have put the former Bundesliga sensation in a far more flattering light. After assisting the winner against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium, Kolasinac was Arsenal’s most consistent creative threat in their 4-2 demolition of Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, making five chances and using his body well to win three fouls.
We probably shouldn’t be all that surprised, because during Kolasinac’s final season at Schalke he made more appearances at wing-back than he did full-back. That was the position that saw the Bosnian produce the form to earn himself a place in the Bundesliga Team of the Year and subsequently a move to the Emirates Stadium.
But that only highlights how left-back is becoming such a problem position for Arsenal, and one they’ll need to address in the coming transfer windows. Nacho Monreal isn’t getting any younger while Kolasinac only seems comfortable when there’s a centre-half tucked in alongside him. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, meanwhile, is a fantastic talent but his future surely lies in a midfield role rather than at the back.
When the Spaniard returns from injury, the Arsenal boss will appreciate the variety – one wide defender for each game-plan. But in the meantime, and particularly for the trip to Manchester United in midweek, Kolasinac’s presence is restrictive. Although Emery may well prefer to return to a back four against United, Kolasinac’s struggles as a full-back dictate that the three-man defence will need to remain intact for the visit to Old Trafford.
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