Sead Kolasinac bafflingly failed to deal with a simple long ball, allowing Jesse Lingard to nip in and equalise in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United. This is the limit of the Bosnian’s value.
From kick-off, the ball had been in play for just 13 seconds before Jesse Lingard prodded a strike past a stranded Bernd Leno. Quite how a team can concede a goal within 13 seconds from kick-off, I do not really know. Only Arsenal quite have the capability of such infuriating mental incompetence. But concede they did and drop two points as a result.
The 2-2 draw at Old Trafford is not a bad result in a vacuum. But having two leads and squandering both is undoubtedly disappointing, no matter the end result.
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For Lingard’s prodded dagger to the heart, there was only one culprit. As Maros Rojo’s long ball up to Romelu Lukaku looked to cause the Arsenal defence some problems, Sead Kolasinac actually made the right move to come around the back and cover the space in behind, as any good fullback should do. Kolasinac then controlled the ball, took it towards his own penalty area, and then bafflingly, just stopped.
Leno then scrambled out of his goal to try and get to the ball. Kolasinac stretched his left leg out to poke it clear. But Lingard, who, to his credit, is frequently aware of these possibilities, was the quickest, nipping in front of the goalkeeper and defender and prodding home the finish. 2-2, and it was completely and utterly avoidable.
This match was the perfect illustration of the limitations of Kolasinac’s value. Offensively, he was excellent, driving to the by-line with power and regularity, causing Diogo Dalot all sorts of strife throughout the 90 minutes. And yet, for all of his production at one end, he let it all slip at the other.
And that is the pattern of Kolasinac’s play: so dangerous and powerful at one end; so loose and complacent at the other. It is a key reason, I believe, why Unai Emery has chosen to play a 3-4-3 rather than a back-four-based system in recent weeks. He does not trust the defensive instincts of Kolasinac in a traditional fullback role, and so has adapted the team to feature two wingbacks.
Kolasinac’s offensive output is impressive. He does carry a surging, bulldozing threat that few other players in the squad can replicate. And he does possess a greater finesse and accuracy in the final third than his build may belie. But is it worth sacrificing the defensive vulnerabilities at the other end?
There is a limit to Kolasinac’s value because of his defensive shortcomings. And that limit may be such that Emery might have to turn elsewhere in the future.