Isaac Lundall Wednesday, 7 June 2017
The Arsenal yesterday announced the signing of 24 year old Bosnian international, Sead Kolašinac, on a free transfer. Kolašinac spent the last 5 seasons at Schalke. He played at left back during the 2016/2017 Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, and Uefa Europa League seasons, scoring 3 goals in 35 appearances.
Signing Kolašinac certainly adds depth and flexibility to the Arsenal squad in defensive areas, as he also played at centre back and in defensive midfield earlier in his career. Less certain is how Arsene Wenger intends using Kolašinac and how his inclusion affects the balance of the squad and the career arcs of other Arsenal squad members.
Nacho Monreal was first choice at left back for the 2016/2017 season, making 36 Premier League appearances. Kieran Gibbs made only 21 appearances across all 4 competitions, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was preferred at left back for the FA Cup final. Kolašinac's advent may point to an end of Gibbs' tenure at the Arsenal. With Russia 2018 just over a year away, Gibbs would need to play regularly to make Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad, so may opt for a move for the sake of more regular starts. Monreal could also be on his way out, given that at 31 years, he will soon be losing the pace and stamina essential for playing effectively at fullback.
Yet Kolašinac may not be meant to supplant either Gibbs or Monreal from the squad. With his top level experience at both centre back and in central midfield, if Wenger wants to play with a flat back four, Kolašinac can play in a defensive midfield position. Moving him to centre back, with Gibbs and Hector Bellerin taking up a more advanced positions, would transform the formation into a back three with wingbacks. This would allow for tactical flexibility and formation changes without substitutions. If this is Wenger's intention, then Francis Coquelin is more at risk of not starting matches.
However the manager intends using Kolašinac, the depth that he adds to the squad is welcome, especially given the Thursday night football in the Europa League that failure to qualify for the Champions' League has brought. We look forward to seeing his contribution to the success of the Arsenal. Welcome to the club, Sead.