3 Players who would deliver more than Sead Kolasinac as a LCB in a back three
By Daniel Finton (Deputy Editor)
After the agonising loss to our bitter rivals Tottenham yesterday in the North London derby, an abundance of players are being heavily scrutinised. While I, personally do not usually tend to aim abuse towards players no matter how poorly they play, a great many supporters do, and this time it’s hard to blame them. Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac in particular have come under harsh criticism for each of their dire outings. For the last few games it was starting to look as though Mikel Arteta’s 3-4-3 formation was full proof. It seemingly nullified the weaknesses of the aforementioned duo, who are deployed on the right and left side of the central defensive three, with David Luiz in the middle. However, the Tottenham loss showed that is just quite simply not the case.
As the chief editor, Alfie, wrote recently, Mustafi just does not deserve a new contract, and any debate that there was over that notion was pretty much totally scrapped given his horror show yesterday. The same should go for Kolasinac. The Bosnian international is a liability with the ball at his feet and almost always opts for the conservative pass rather than a progressive one to contribute to the build up play. The fact that a pedestrian, conservative pass from the former Schalke man led directly to Son Heung-Min being one on one with Emiliano Martinez, and scoring, is poetically indicative of the fact that we need to shoehorn somebody else in the left sided central defence position if we are to persist with the 3-4-3 set up. Luckily, there are players at the club who can fill the void.
The obvious one that many have been suggesting is Kieran Tierney. Given the fact that Pablo Mari, who presumably would be filling the role, is out for the season, the former Celtic man is the player best suited to the role after the lanky Spaniard. Tierney is already establishing himself as a fan favorite given his immense work ethic compiled with his admirable humbleness. In terms of his on the pitch abilities, the Scottish left-back has been tremendous as of late- he is well and truly a rock defensively and also a major threat going forward. With that being said, is Tierney as threatening to the opposition going forward as Kolasinac is to Arsenal when the Bosnian is trying to defend? Debatable. Tierney would be well-suited to the left side of a back three and that would also mean no more Kolasinac either. Win, win. Tierney is tidy and moreover, brave on the ball and is actually quite good at defending. Both of those attributes are Kolasinac’s shortcomings.
If Tierney, who Arteta confirmed is not going anywhere in a recent interview, is deployed in the left side of a back three role, it would probably be Bukayo Saka placed in the left-wing back position. I, for one, would prefer the Tierney option over any other and I’m sure Saka would be just fine as a left wing back once again.
Another candidate who has not had a sniff of first team football as of late is Rob Holding. The 24-year-old Englishman has just recently returned from an awful injury and seemingly can’t win any minutes for himself at the moment. I don’t think many would be opposed to Holding playing in the Kolasinac role to be honest. A large number of Arsenal fans that I am connected with, including senior writer for the site, Rob Worthington, are huge admirers of the former Bolton man. I’m sure each of them would be delighted to see Holding play over Kolasinac.
For me, it isn't ideal, but if it is the only way for Kolasinac to be taken out of the position, I’ll take what I can get. Holding would be more assured on the ball and certainly a hell of a lot better defensively. The one reservation I do have is whether or not Holding can creep up a bit to support the left wing back. He is a really old-fashioned defender who specialises in his job, which is not a bad thing, but may be a hindrance for him or others if he is deployed in the modern-day position. All in all, he would be a better option than Kolasinac, but Tierney would be better suited to the role in my opinion. Let's not forget Holding's brilliant run of form under Emery was on the left of a three.
Zech Medley is one of the most promising defenders in Arsenal’s reserves and maybe this would be a good time to give the 20-year-old his baptisation. The idea of the 3-4-3 formation was to give Mustafi and Kolasinac, who are the weak links of the side, less responsibility and far less area to martial. Medley being deployed in such a system would offer him support so he would not be horribly isolated on a frequent basis in the match. Medley has played his 11 appearances with the under-23’s as either a central defender or a left back. Given the fact that he is left footed, and also good on the ball, may entice Areta to the idea of giving the youngster a proper crack at the whip.
Though it is a bit early for Medley, and he could use some more time to age in the youth academy, it would not be such a bad thing for him to be given his chance at this time. As of today, Manchester City’s UEFA champions league ban has been overturned. For Arsenal, this makes the proposition of European football in general a slim and faint hope. So playing Medley in a system where he won't be put into one on one situations perpetually in games that do not mean much would be good for the growth of the player. Again, I would prefer Tierney to fill the role, however, Medley is even more intriguing to me than Holding is. The Greenwich born, 6'4 ball playing central defender would benefit heavily from such a chance and seems well suited to a 3-4-3 formation.
So, basically what I’m getting at is, I want Kolasinac out of the side and so do most people. Arteta said form is what decides who plays and the Bosnian has been a disaster in this role on the whole. By the letter of Arteta’s very own law, he should lose his place. Tierney, Holding and Medley would all make more sense in the starting eleven going into the future and I hope Arteta shares the same belief.
If Pablo Mari was fit, I do not think we would be having this discussion at all, but we’re Arsenal, injuries are part of our DNA so get used to it.
The Gunners are set to play Liverpool this coming Wednesday and if Kolasinac is granted a start once again, squaring up against the likes of Mohammed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold, we are going to be heavily, heavily scorched and maybe even humiliated by Klopp’s men once again.