Arsenal: Sead Kolasinac’s unavoidable offensive greatness

Sead Kolasinac is truly great offensively. The Arsenal full-back’s attacking threat and production is utterly unavoidable and may be worth the defensive vulnerabilities his presence causes.

The Arsenal social media pages have just posted an in-depth interview with Unai Emery regarding the full-back position. The interview started with a very simple question: Is the full-back position the most important position in the team? It is a far cry from how the full-back used to be viewed. ‘Left-back in the changing rooms’ was always the joke.

Whether it is true or not, I do not know. But I do know that I would rather have a world-class central midfielder than a world-class full-back. Nevertheless, the very fact that the question is being asked is proof that the modern game has evolved such that full-backs are now incredibly important players.

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This brings me to Sead Kolasinac, an unusually difficult player to decipher. On the one hand, he is so wonderfully strong and powerful, with legs the size of a horse’s and great speed and vigour as he surges up the left flank. And on the other, a surprising finesse whenever the ball is stuck to his left foot, an accurate delivery, creativity in his passing. Kolasinac is more than the brute that he is often portrayed to be.

And then underpinning all this is his defensive work: a strong tackler who is aggressive — sometimes overly so — and eager to win back possession, but lacks the decision-making and sense of danger to ever be a consistently reliable defender. He is an amalgamation of athleticism, delicate elegance, raw, untamed power, and defensive irregularities. That makes him very difficult to figure out. Who really is Sead Kolasinac?

Well, there is one element of his game that is utterly unavoidable, and it might well make all the other warts and absurdities worth the compromise. Kolasinac is one of the best offensive defenders in the Premier League and Arsenal rely on him to be such.

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According to Squawka, Kolasinac creates the third-most big chances per 90 minutes of all players in the Premier League. The two above him are Alexis Sanchez and Ryan Fraser. He is the only defender in the top ten, creating seven big chances in 867 minutes of action. That is a better rate than Eden Hazard, David Silva and Mohamed Salah. And the creation of big chances is an extremely important statistic, perhaps even more so than just chances created.

A big chance, per Squawka, is defined as: ‘A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one on one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low to moderate pressure on the shooter. Penalties are always considered big chances.’ A player who can create them at a high rate is an invaluable asset, even if he is a defender.

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That does not better help define Kolasinac. Most people probably already realised that he is an excellent offensive defender. But perhaps it does show the extent of his influence and helps to argue that his weaknesses are worth swallowing because his strengths truly are game-changing. Kolasinac’s offensive greatness is unavoidable.

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