When you think of Arsenal you immediately think of all the attacking talent at their disposal.
Unai Emery has transformed the Gunners into a slick outfit – with obvious cracks – but his emphasis on full-backs has created a monster.
With all the star players plying their trade in north London you could be forgiven for thinking that the Gunner’s most creative talent may be one of Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Aaron Ramsey. But this is not the case.
Sead Kolasinac has created more chances from open play per 90 minutes than any other teammate in the Premier League this season.
No that is not a typo but rather a tactical inevitability of Emery-ball.
The Spaniard encourages his full-backs to get forward whenever possible even in his narrow 4-2-3-1 formation. However, the recent use of a 3-4-3 has fully unleashed the wing-back affectionately known as the Bosnian Hulk.
Kolasinac is an extremely powerful runner and came with a big reputation when he signed from German side Schalke in 2017 yet he was not well known for his attacking talents.
Playing under Emery has clearly been of huge benefit to the 25-year-old and his numbers are proving just how valuable an asset he is… going forward.
Sead Kolasinac: the Premier League’s most attacking defender
The Bosnian has been enjoying his time on the left flank under new manager Unai Emery to the point where he could be forgiven from suffering from altitude sickness.
He has been so high up the pitch that no defender in the Premier League has had more touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes than the Arsenal man.
The marauding wing-back has averaged 4.36 touches in the box per 90 minutes in the league this season, fifth-most amongst his Arsenal teammates and above a certain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Even more impressive is the fact that Kolasinac has also created 1.87 chances from open play per 90, more than any other teammate; even when considering chances created as a whole – including set-pieces – the Bosnian’s 1.87 puts him third on the Arsenal list.
The defender believes that the preparation Emery puts into each game has really helped him perform at a top level and has been quick to give the Spaniard credit.
“The manager always prepares us very well for games,” he told Sky Sports last month.
“We watch a lot of video, and, speaking as a full-back, he and his staff will show us what we’re doing well and what we need to improve, and that helps a lot. It means you learn from game to game and become better. It’s a key to success.”
There is only one defender on this list and his name is Sead Kolašinac. 💪 pic.twitter.com/YEJ3vb7TlX
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 11, 2019
The defender also leads the Gunners squad in big chances created per 90 minutes. His average of 0.73 is the most for a defender in the Premier League this season and third-most of any player to have at least 500 minutes in their legs this season.
Kolasinac’s 0.31 assists per 90 minutes is the fourth-most on the Arsenal team, with the soon-to-be-departing Aaron Ramsey leading in this metric, and behind only Benjamin Mendy of defenders in the Premier League.
With so much emphasis on Emery’s full-backs creating chances for his side, it is safe to say that opposition teams are also gifted plenty as a result. This is certainly the case with Arsenal’s No.31.
In only one of the 10 Premier League games Kolasinac has started this season have Arsenal kept a clean sheet: a 1-0 home win against Huddersfield, the lowest scorers in the division.
On average, Arsenal concede 1.56 goals per league game when Emery opts to field his wing-back tank.
What’s more, Kolasinac has made three errors leading to opposition shots this season, the joint-most amongst Arsenal players alongside summer arrival Bernd Leno and fellow full-back Hector Bellerin.
Given the burden placed on Bellerin’s shoulders – and now Kolasinac’s – to be the Gunners’ main outlet, it is no surprise to see the duo as the main culprits for mistakes.
Sead Kolašinac created more chances (5) than any other player on the pitch during the #NorthLondonDerby; just one fewer than the entire Spurs side combined (6).
Claiming the LWB position… and he’s got the flag to do it. 😂 pic.twitter.com/XBrtRj0FAN
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 2, 2018
It is clear that the perfect balance between high-flying full-backs and a dependable defence is yet to be struck by Emery.
However, Arsenal fans should take positives from the fact there is a clear idea of how best to create opportunities within the side.
Arsenal have made six individual errors leading to goals in the Premier League this season, more than any other team.
Lichtsteiner is the latest culprit. 😐 pic.twitter.com/0Sx1RrRS48
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 26, 2018
The major problem remains that beyond Kolasinac and Bellerin – Monreal perhaps the exception – there are no viable alternatives within in the squad who can deliver even half the output from full-back.
Just ask an Arsenal fan about Stephan Lichtsteiner…
Arsenal face local rivals West Ham at the London Stadium next and you can expect Sead Kolasinac to have a say at both ends of the pitch.