Sead Kolasinac is Arsenal’s foot through the door

The signing of Bosnian Sead Kolasinac suggests Arsene Wenger has eventually accepted one can’t always pick a lock with a hair clip, says Simon Collings.

After watching Sead Kolasinac for a matter of minutes is not too difficult to understand why he is nicknamed ‘The Bosnian Hulk’.

Nor is it hard to comprehend why his former manager at Schalke, Jens Keller, once compared him to a tree. Kolasinac is, by any measurement, quite the unit.

“You have players who are pumped up in the gym and players who were born strong – he is the second part,” says Arsene Wenger.

His move to Arsenal this summer from Schalke may have gone under the radar for the fact it was a free transfer, but the Bosnian is already looking like one of the bargains of the summer.

Against Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley Stadium, ‘The Tank’ – another of Kolasinac’s many nicknames – was deployed by Arsene Wenger after 32 minutes following a head injury to captain Per Mertesacker.

Although usually a left wing-back, Kolasinac was asked to fill in the middle of defence as part of a back three and he did so with aplomb.

The 24-year-old was strong in the tackle, so much so that one clash left Victor Moses in a heap on the floor – much to the delight of Arsenal fans.

Kolasinac got forward too, regularly marauding down the left to great effect and his goal after 82 minutes was no more than his performance deserved. It may have only been what many people consider a pre-season friendly, but on the face of it Kolasinac looks made for English football.

“In the Premier League power plays a part, but it’s not only that. I also took him because of his attitude,” says Wenger. “The modern game doesn’t tolerate many weaknesses any more. It’s always a combination of talent and attitude.

“He looks to me like he has good talent but also a very strong and determined attitude, supported by a strong body.

“He’s gone from strength to strength.”

“He looks powerful and also the timing of his availability going forward looks good.”

Crucially, Kolasinac’s arrival will give Arsenal something different this season. Amid the Gunners’ meze of technically gifted players, the Bosnian is a perfect contrast. Essentially, he is Arsenal’s foot through the door when the rest of the team have failed prising it open with a hair clip.

As the 24-year-old showed against Chelsea he is very versatile. During the early stages of his career, Kolasinac played as a centre-back and holding midfielder.

However, it is at left wing-back that the Bosnian starred for Schalke and where he will most likely play for Arsenal. He finished with five assists in the Bundesliga last season, more than any other defender, and the fact he is arriving for free makes him a remarkable signing by Wenger.

The Frenchman has a history of pulling off coups when it comes to bargain buys, with Sol Campbell’s arrival in the summer of 2001 the pick of the bunch.

Campbell left fierce rivals Tottenham to join Arsenal on a free transfer and he transformed the club’s defence to another level.

Physically imposing and a leader, the England international won the double in his first season. Two years later, he and Arsenal would go the whole league campaign unbeaten.

Given their positional differences, it would be wrong to hail Kolasinac as the second coming of Campbell. However, there are similarities between the pair’s arrivals.

Like Campbell, Kolasinac adds to Arsenal brute strength and willingness to fight - a trait often lacked by his new team-mates.

There can be no question as to whether Kolasinac can hack it on a cold Tuesday night at Stoke.

Given Wenger’s experience of blooding players in the Premier League, it is quite possible Kolasinac will have to bide his time before securing a spot in the first team.

The Frenchman is often wary about giving new signings time to adapt as he knows better than anyone how difficult it can be for an individual to settle in England.

Indeed, Wenger admitted after the Community Shield match against Chelsea he was reluctant to pick Kolasinac in his starting XI.

“I had a hesitation to play him from the start because it was Wembley and the pressure,” he said. “But when he came on he was outstanding.” However, after witnessing him against Chelsea, one suspects in the future Wenger won’t be so apprehensive about unleashing ‘The Bosnian Hulk’ from the first minute.

THE GOOD

Arsene Wenger is no stranger when it comes to finding value in the market. Here’s some of the Frenchman’s best bargain buys.

Sol Campbell (Tottenham, free)
Campbell arrived from rivals Spurs in the summer of 2001 and he went on to be a huge success at Highbury, winning the double in 2002 before helping the club go the whole Premier League season unbeaten in 2004.

Kolo Toure (ASEC Mimosas, £150,000)
Signed in February 2002 after impressing while on trial, Toure would go on to form a formidable partnership in the heart of the defence with Campbell. He was eventually sold for £14m to Manchester City in 2009.

Nicolas Anelka (Paris Saint-Germain, £500,000)
The first of many gems unearthed by Wenger came in the shape of Anelka, who joined Arsenal in 1997. He was a revelation for the Gunners and just two years later he was sold to Real Madrid for over £20m.

Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona, £500,000)
Plucked from Barcelona in 2003 when he was just 16, Fabregas goes down as one of Wenger’s best ever buys. The midfielder went on to make over 300 appearances for Arsenal.

Robin van Persie (Feyenoord, £2.75m)
Signed from Feyenoord in 2004 when he was just 20, Van Persie would go on to score bags of goals for Arsenal and captain the side. He finally left the club in 2012 for Manchester United after they coughed up £24m.

THE BAD

 It wasn’t so long ago that Gooners were dreaming of success founded on a heart-warming homegrown core. Sadly instead of fostering an indomitable spirit, it feels as if the absence of jeopardy in the Arsenal dressing room has resulted in a team that’s proved content to tread water for far too long. Moving players on is no easy task, when even the more mediocre are on mega-money nowadays, but the net impact of not ringing the changes might be more portentous.

Theo Walcott - for many Arsenal fans Theo’s recurring failure to fulfil his teenage promise has been thoroughly symptomatic of the malaise at the club over the past decade. Walcott is an amiable character who invariably makes the right noises. Yet he seems far too comfortable with his cameo role as a bit-part player. If some other sucker could be found to fork out for his inflated salary, it might be in the best interests of both the Gunners and Walcott for him to seek a renewed challenge elsewhere.

Lucas Perez - by contrast to a lukewarm Walcott, watching Perez angrily spanking home goals during our Member’s Day public training session, with the Spaniard on the verge of making his exit, personally I’d much prefer to retain a hungry striker with a point to prove than his complacent team mate.

Jack Wilshere Yet another GWH (great white hope) prodigy who’s struggled under the burden of all the hype. As sad as I will be to see Jack go, after having been at the Arsenal since the age of nine, we simply can’t afford to carry the injury-prone midfielder any longer, in the ever-diminishing hope of jam tomorrow.

Kieran Gibbs Another member of the Arsenal’s complacent Culture Club who can’t remain injury free long enough to nail down a first XI shirt. When match fit, Gibbs has proved himself to be a more than competent full-back, but with the arrival of a more robust looking Kolosinac and with Cohen Bramall pushing for promotion it won’t be long before Keiran hears the fateful “Come in no. 3, your time is up”.

Matthieu Debuchy Bellerin’s progress back in 2014 was so rapid that no one batted an eyelid when Debuchy disappeared, so soon after his arrival from the Toon. What you’ve never had, you never miss and having been plagued by a succession of long-term injuries, the 32-year old’s appearances have been so few and far between that we’d barely notice the departure of Arsenal’s Invisible Man.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Combined with all the rumours, the Ox’s recent languid body language might lead one to conclude he’s already decided the grass is greener elsewhere. Of the cotchel of unfulfilled talent at the club, I’d be saddest to lose the Ox because with his pace and power he’s a particularly versatile player. And unlike some, I still haven’t lost all hope that if suitably motivated, Alex might yet make his mark in red & white.

Words by Bernard Azulay


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