I’m generally a person who plays it safe. I’m the poster boy for the “risk-averse.” When it comes to football, I rely on what my eyes tell me and then use respected opinions and/or data analysis to reinforce what I see. This piece will go against those ideals. I am already comfortable stating, after only playing 84 minutes of competitive football together, that Sead Kolasinac and Alexis Sanchez will form an incredibly potent partnership for Arsenal Football Club.
The irony is that each individual skill set breaks the stereotypical mold of an Arsenal player. Their games are less about finesse and intricacy and more about dynamism and directness. Alexis with his high-touch, South American flair; Kolasinac with his unique blend of brute force with the touch and end product of more diminutive playmaker. These two will combine and provide a potency down the left hand side that Arsenal fans haven’t witnessed in quite some time.
Why am I so confident?
The Unpredictability Factor
It’s not the goals and assists that impress me most about Alexis Sanchez, it’s his unpredictability when the ball is played into touch. Even in the smallest of half spaces, the opportunities are limitless when he receives the ball. A slight flick around a defender, the ability to collect and turn both ways, and his cheeky drop of the shoulder are just a few of the objects in his toolbelt. Much like his high-risk passing, so much of what he does seems organic and not pre-determined.
It’s a small sample size that we have on Kolasinac, but what has been evident to me was the variety with which he plays down the left flank. He isn’t strictly an overlapping LWB that goes around his advanced attacking options, he’s willing to run inside as well.
His natural inclination and prowess in getting forward will be rewarded often with the ball-dominating, slightly selfish nature of Alexis ahead of him. Alexis creates space for himself with his shimmies and misdirection in possession, which will give Kolasinac plenty of time to make his advanced runs.
Clarity of Game
There is a refreshing degree of translucency with each player’s style. With Alexis it comes in the form of his passing, especially in the final third. It is not the most efficient, but few can argue he’s not trying to put us in the most advantageous situation possible when attempting incisive passes.
Kolasinac provides clarity with the pure stoutness in which he plays. He toes the line perfectly between physicality and front-footedness in his challenges. It’s nice to see an Arsenal defender take the man and the ball when defending.
He’ll benefit greatly from Alexis’ high-risk passing style and has support from behind with Nacho Monreal providing cover over the left side.
They Have Complimentary Playing Styles
- They Both Exude Dynamism: Alexis hasn’t had this sort of energetic, close-distance support option since he joined the club. They both are constantly looking to progress the team forward and have little interest in sideways and negative passes. Given his nature, Kolasinac will get to the byline with regularity, which can lead to quality cutback efforts or space for Alexis to cut in on his favored right foot.
- The Trust Factor: Alexis doesn’t always trust the support of his teammates around him. Instead of playing the simple pass or engaging in pass-and-move football to open space for others, he’ll take on defenders himself. This will be different with our Bosnian Tank. Kolasinac has shown quality link play as well as an uncanny ability to pick out a precise pass into the penalty area.
- Kolasinac Finds Advanced Pockets of Space: Our new system allows our wingbacks to get forward with regularity. The difference between the left and right, Kolasinac and Bellerin, is the style in which they do so. Our attack down the left is more controlled, whereas the attack down Bellerin’s side is quicker and generally leads to a cross without the chance of defenses organizing behind the ball. Kolasinac’s ability to find space, almost like a creative midfielder, will pay dividends with our high-touch Chilean looking for creative options down the left.
The absolute shame of it all is that this bromance will almost certainly be short-lived. It’s hard to foresee a scenario in which Alexis extends his contract. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts though. It’s going to be a beautiful thing to behold.
Follow me on Twitter @dfresh10
31 year old based in the U.S. I am an elementary school teacher by day whose passion for teaching is only rivaled by a love for the Arsenal. I release a weekly piece each Tuesday that is oftentimes analytical but sometimes eccentric. Founder of the U.S. supporters group Syracuse Gooners (www.cusegooners.com). I enjoy interacting with any and all Arsenal-based opinions on Twitter. Have a younger brother who chose to support Spurs. Fielding suggestions for ways to disown him.