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Sead Kolasinac’s disappointing Arsenal tenure a warning for the future

By Rob Worthington (Senior Writer)

When Arsenal announced the free signing of Sead Kolasinac from Schalke in June 2017, the news was welcomed with a fair bit of excitement. The physically imposing left-sided defender put pen to paper on a 5-year-contract with Arsenal and it looked like an astute piece of business from us. Now, we seem to be doing all we can to shift him off the wage bill. So, we’re 3 years into that contract and it’s most likely that most at Arsenal look back at the deal to bring Kolasinac to North London with regret.

This isn’t because Kolasinac has been particularly awful in a red and white shirt. In fact, he’s delivered some quite memorable performances for us. Especially from left wing-back. However, his overall performance has not been worth the £119,000 a week the Bosnian is paid to play for Arsenal.

He is the perfect exemplification of the fact that a ‘free’ transfer isn’t as free as it seems. Just because you don’t have to pay a transfer fee for a player, doesn’t mean he costs nothing. The Bosnian collected a healthy signing on fee when he joined Arsenal, a key component of any high-profile free transfer, and has earned roughly £14.4 million during his time at the club (excluding bonuses). A lot of money spent on quite an average player.

You’d think Arsenal would’ve learnt from this. It’s rather vivid that we’ve accepted that Kolasinac isn’t quite good enough to be our first choice left-back as evidenced by the fact the club brought in Kieran Tierney last Summer to play this role for us. So, signing him just because he was ‘free’ was surely realised to have been a mistake. But still, Arsenal have handed a similarly handsome deal to Willian. Yes, this is likely a player Arsenal know a bit more about. But still, worrying similarities.

And this is why I’m somewhat glad the rumours linking Malang Sarr with a move to North London have diminished. I got the impression with this one that we purely held an interest in the French centre-back due to him being available for ‘free’ and because he was left-footed.

The 21-year-old committed 31 fouls for Lille last season and is known to be rather error prone and ill-disciplined. To provide some context to the foul stat, David Luiz made 30 fouls this season and William Saliba fouled a player just twice. Thus, regarding his footballing ability, Sarr is the sort of player we should be moving away from concerning our defensive recruitment.

That’s not to say Sarr won’t go on to be successful elsewhere. In a team or a league where his deficiencies could be hidden, there’s no doubt that he could excel. But still, there was potential for us to thrash out a £100,000+ a week contract to him, just as we did with Kolasinac. Then, he could have been exposed by the fast pace of the English topflight. Such circumstances would lead to his reputation being damaged and it’d become much more difficult to move him on. This, combined with the high wage which no other club would be willing to match. Exactly what’s happened with Kolasinac.

The moral of the story? Don’t sign players just because they're ‘free’.

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