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Arsenal began the 2017/18 campaign on an extremely positive note, when they defeated Premier League champions Chelsea on penalties, to win the FA Community Shield at the Wembley, on Sunday.
It was not the most perfect victory for Arsene Wenger’s side, but there were a whole lot of positives from the game. The club record signing Alexandre Lacazette looked extremely sharp and on the money in his competitive debut, hitting the post in the first-half. The likes of Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck too had a decent game, while Man of the Match Granit Xhaka too impressed everyone.
While everyone’s eyes were on the big money signing Lacazette, it was the other summer arrival, Sead Kolasinac, who completely stole the show. The 23-year old Bosnian was signed on a free transfer from Schalke after his contract expired in the summer and he made the most of his debut performance to endear himself to the fans already.
Kolasinac did not start the game, with Wenger opting to use Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as the left-wing back and Nacho Monreal as the left-sided centre-back in his back-three formation. But a nasty accident with Chelsea captain Gary Cahill saw veteran defender Per Mertesacker leave the pitch in blood and on came the summer arrival. The left-back slotted in as the left-sided centre-half with Monreal shifting to the centre of the defence.
It did not take long for Kolasinac to show why he was picked in the Bundesliga Team of the Year for the last season. Within minutes of his coming on, he carried the ball forward from his own half with such blistering pace and power, breezing past the Chelsea players; it was a sight to watch. While that run did not amount to a goal or anything, it did give a fair indication of what the Gunners’ new arrival is all about.
Later in the second period, with his team trailing by a goal after Victor Moses had given the Premier League champions a 1-0 lead, it was Kolasinac, who brought Arsenal back on level terms, scoring a well-placed header from Xhaka’s free-kick, forcing the game into a penalty shootout. There were a lot of other things that he did before the goal that will have pleased the Gunners faithful to no end. His pace, the brute power that he displayed, the way he held his own, physically against the opponents, it was some way to announce himself on the stage.
It might be too early to read into his performance, but judging by what was dished out against the Blues, Arsenal may very well have struck the bargain of this season. And without a doubt, he should be their first-choice left wing-back, as he could have a devastating effect going forward.
“What about the “Ox” then?”, you ask. The Englishman too was impeccable down the left flank for most parts of the game. While he was not tested a whole lot defensively, Oxlade-Chamberlain looked very good going forward. Each time he got on the ball, he used it to drive forward with speed and trickery, and linked well with Iwobi on a number of occasions down the left channel. But, with Kolasinac’s emergence, it might be prudent for Wenger to switch the England international back to the right-hand side.
Oxlade-Chamberlain put in some of his best performances of previous season playing as a right wing-back and impressed in the role during the pre-season games as well. The 23-year old has shown enough attacking flair and defensive nous to be trusted in the wing-back role regularly and Arsenal should go into the new season with Kolasinac and Ox as their first-choice wing-backs.