Could Sead Kolasinac be just what Arsenal need? Adam Bate talks to a former Schalke team-mate as well as the club's former sporting director to find out...
The demand for Arsenal to add steel and resolve is a familiar one. Arsene Wenger's team have long been seen as both mentally and physically fragile. After an encouraging end to last season, there is hope that the switch to a 3-4-3 formation will help make Arsenal more solid defensively but what of their mentality? The signing of Sead Kolasinac could help with both.
The 24-year-old Bosnia international arrives after enjoying the best season of his career so far at Schalke. Six foot tall but still stocky, former boss Jens Keller described Kolasinac as "a tree" and it should be no surprise he made more tackles than anyone at Schalke last season. As former team-mate Timo Hildebrand explains, tenacity is in his nature.
"He is so strong that nobody can stop him," the former Germany international tells Sky Sports. "He is really strong and also a fighter. He had those qualities even when he was a young player coming through the ranks at Schalke. He is a very good player and I think he is going to do well in the Premier League. He is the perfect signing for Arsenal."
Perfect. This is a word that comes up more than once when discussing Kolasinac's suitability. It also gets a mention when speaking to Gerhard Zuber, Schalke's former sporting director and a man who knows the player better than most. Indeed, they remain close, their relationship even predating their five years together in Gelsenkirchen.
"I know him very well," Zuber tells Sky Sports. "Sead was one of the players that I knew from when we were at VfB Stuttgart. We drafted him from the Under-17 team at VfB Stuttgart and took him to the Under-19 team at Schalke 04. I loved him because we always thought he had the spirit and all the skills required to be successful in the left-back position."
Of course, Arsenal's dalliance with wing-backs during the latter part of last season, a period in which they won the FA Cup, means the opportunity to play as a conventional left-back could be denied Kolasinac at the Emirates. Fortunately, he has the versatility to thrive in a number of positions - something Wenger noted upon his arrival.
Zuber insists that left-back is Kolasinac's best position but there are many other options. "If you play with three defenders he can play on the left side of the three," he explains. "He also did a good job on the left wing for Schalke last season. He can play as a No.6 in midfield or even as a central defender. He is a multi-functional player."
This all-round game is reflected in the fact that Kolasinac provided more assists than any other Schalke player last season. While defensive skills come naturally to him, he has had to work to develop the attacking skills. Now that work is paying off. "He has always been a very good defender but he has improved a lot offensively in the last two years," says Zuber.
It will still be a challenge to match the speed and skill evident in Arsenal's midfield. But where Kolasinac can show the way is through his character. "He is brilliant," says Zuber. "He is such a strong character." Even at 24, the hope will be that he can lead by example and put an end to the sort of lapses in resolve that seem to have scarred Arsenal in recent seasons.
"He was one of the most important players in the Schalke team because the qualities he has are very special," says Zuber. "He is always full of emotion, willing to get every ball and very good without the ball. He is the sort of person who every coach wants to have in his team. He gives 100 per cent in every game and that's why the fans at Schalke 04 loved him."
He is the sort of person who every coach wants to have in his team.
Will the Arsenal supporters feel the same way? Zuber is convinced. As Wenger himself said, Kolasinac has "all the attributes" to be successful in the Premier League and it's a career choice that has been well thought out. "We were very close so we talked a lot about it and worked hard on the best way to push his career forwards," adds Zuber.
"This is the correct step and Arsenal are a very good team for him. I always said to him that if he had the chance to go the UK then he had to go because with his mentality, the way the game is played in the Premier League is perfect for him. Arsene Wenger will have a lot of fun with him. He will continue to improve and go on to play a big role, believe me."