Sead Kolasinac’s career began with a Bundesliga education in Hoffenheim as a youth player and as an emerging professional in Gelsenkirchen with Schalke where he was ultimately primed him for a journey to Arsenal and the Premier League. Without a doubt, growing up in German club football and in German Youth International squads gave Sead his bullish yet elegant technique but the beast-like physique he possesses is no doubt his best asset. From September 2012 through to the end of the 2016/17 season, he amassed 94 appearances scoring four goals, with the pinnacle of his young career coming in his final season where he was voted in the Bundesliga team of the season, claiming this accolade ahead of defenders like David Alaba and Mats Hummels. This stellar season certainly caught the eye of some of Europe’s top clubs.
Having inherited Nigel Winterburn, and developed successful talents like Ashley Cole, Gael Clichy and Kieran Gibbs, Arsene Wenger clearly changed his mantra to go and sign Kolasinac. Having only bought Sylvinho, van Bronckhorst, Andre Santos and Monreal as recognised left backs over the years, Wenger’s vision for a first team left back has barely altered in his twenty one year management; slight, quick, technical and more so for his academy graduates; mouldable. Even last season’s acquisition Cohen Brammall fits the bill, blessed with raw pace and a decent left foot, only reaffirming Wenger’s love for a quick and technical left back. Fast forward to present day though and fullbacks like Marcos Alonso and Christian Fuchs have recent Premier League winner’s medals, and Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe led Monaco to their first Ligue 1 title in seventeen years as well as a long run in the Champions League, all of bigger and more athletic builds than Wenger’s more traditional slender architypes. The signs of evolution are there though, and perhaps Arsene has loosened his usually stubborn attraction to get what he wants, to go and get what he needs.
The assumption is that negotiations started early, perhaps as early as mid-season but for Wenger to acknowledge the need for a stronger, more muscular left full back and then actually execute a deal is perhaps still a big shock to some Arsenal fans. He looks to have bucked a tenure-long trend to sign a relatively unheard of but successfully emerging player for a position that, to the fans, clearly was not strong enough. Fighting off rumoured interest from big clubs in Germany and Italy, Wenger got his man on a Bosman free transfer, officially completed on July 1st. Having deployed the same style of left back throughout his entire Arsenal career, and with Gibbs and Monreal looking a little too comfortable, Arsene has finally introduced some bite and power to the back line. Being flexible enough to play as an orthodox left back, a wing back, a centre back in a three and a centre back in a four, Sead has undoubted talent that is ready to shine.
Having featured in a number of positions across back fours and back threes throughout Arsenal’s preseason, Sead started the Community Shield as the left sided centre back of a three. He looked solid from the off and after Pedro’s red card, he scored his first goal and Arsenal’s equaliser by bulldozing through the crowded area to head home Granit Xhaka’s resulting free kick. He started again in the win against Leicester but the back line was far from convincing. He then featured again in the loss to Stoke before warming the bench in the Anfield humiliation but come deadline day, Kieran Gibbs was shipped to West Bromwich Albion and The Ox vacated his wing back spot by moving to Liverpool, it was obvious that Sead will be in the team regardless of formation. Cohen Brammall also departed as he was loaned to Birmingham City for the season, leaving our best two options available to Wenger; Monreal and Kolasinac, and with Nacho regularly featuring as the left sided centre back, it became clear that Sead is now the left back.
Although the Cherries barely left Bournemouth on Saturday, the Gunners defence that included Kolasinac for the full ninety as a LWB, kept a clean sheet at home with an impressive attacking performance. Now the transfer window is closed and all player uncertainty has died down for a few months, Sead can now settle in properly knowing a place in the starting eleven is surely his to lose, especially if Wenger deploys the 3-4-3 formation. Although he certainly looks technically sound going forward, his 6’0 size, bite and aggression is a huge asset to a historically footballing defence. Our back line has been calling for a no-nonsense defender for years and having already amassed 12 clearances, 100% tackle success, 16 recoveries and 1 clean sheet defensively as well as being involved in two goals going forward, Sead is certainly creating a fantastic first impression. We even saw him pull out the trickery and escape two or three opponents with a nifty turn, demonstrating the confidence that Wenger clearly saw in him at Schalke throughout the last few seasons.
The challenge for him now is to build upon this impressive start and continue striding in the right direction. In recent times, Arsenal’s full backs have often gone missing having been far too offensive-minded in big games at places like Stamford Bridge and Anfield. The hope with Sead is that his flexibility and love of defending makes him more conservative in these games, being responsible and mature with his offensive movement so that we retain a better defensive structure against the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool, both very good on the counter-attack. The signs of a clever footballer are there though, and at 24 and signed to a long-term deal, a path to world class is his to map.
Signing Sead on a free is an absolute steal for Arsenal, and the fans have already warmed to him by voting him Player of the Month for August. Although there were not many other obvious candidates due to our less than average start to the season, winning Player of the Month as a defender in your first competitive month at the club is no mean feat. With more glamourous names like Ozil, Sanchez, Ramsey and new record signing Lacazette who scored on his league debut, Sead deserves even further praise. With our first three league games coming in August, and Sead only featuring in one and a half, or so, he must be doing something right to leave a lasting impression, convincing fans to vote for him as their Player of the Month.
What do we want to see from Sead Kolasinac over the coming months? In the downhill from now until Christmas, the Gunners are looking at pretty much two games every week with the start of the Europa League and Carabao Cup campaigns. Having only played in Germany, Sead will be used to a Winter break over Christmas where traditionally Arsenal are busy with a game every three or four days.
Therefore, we can expect Wenger to offer significant rest throughout this period with Monreal swapping in as the left sider when required. Although, we do anticipate Sead to play a major role across all competitions between now and then, and in the New Year too. Typically, Arsenal’s seasonal plight hits around February/March time. However, with new players like Kolasinac and Lacazette on-board, and potentially another one or two new signings in the Winter transfer window, fans would hope that a more talented squad that is blessed with a higher calibre of substitutes and reserves can hold their metal better than squads of the previous five or six years. We have been calling for strong personalities in our squad for nearly a decade now, and although we may still be one or two of those short, I fully expect Sead Kolasinac to be a vocal and physical piece of our starting eleven throughout the season, hopefully taking us back to the top four and beyond.