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20/21 First Team General Transfers

Sead Kolašinac Re-Joins Schalke 04

Sead Kolašinac has re-joined German side Schalke 04 on loan for the remainder of the 2020/21 season, with the option to make the move permanent if Schalke remain in the Bundesliga. 

The move will see Kolašinac return to the Bundesliga, a league where the Bosnian was considered to be one of the top performers, even appearing in the Bundesliga Team of the Season, before making the switch to North London. 

Kolašinac was made available for sale in the summer, as he no longer fits into Mikel Arteta’s plans moving forward, however, the move is also likely to alleviate some of the strain on Arsenal’s ever-groaning wage bill, as Arsenal move on from Kolašinac’s reported wages of £120,000-a-week, with Arsenal covering a portion of the figure, rumoured to be around half.

It was initially thought that Kolašinac would move in the summer, with Bayer Leverkusen mooted as a potential destination for the erstwhile left-back, however, no such move materialised. 

The defender was initially signed on a free transfer in 2017 from Schalke, as a deputy to Nacho Monreal, however, following Monreal’s departure, Kolašinac found himself behind Kieran Tierney in the pecking order. 

Kolašinac’s performances in the Bundesliga had put him squarely on the radar of Europe’s hottest clubs, with Manchester City, Arsenal, Juventus and AC Milan all thought to have been tracking the Bosnian, in the end, it was Arsenal who emerged victorious. 

It is rumoured that Kolašinac’s move back to Schalke is to be funded by Clemens Tönnies as Schalke struggle to remain in the Bundesliga. 

Kolašinac during his time with Schalke 04 in Germany.

At the time of his signing, Arsène Wenger was experimenting more and more with a back five, a system that suited Kolašinac perfectly, as he is, by trade, a left-wing back, rather than a left-back.

Arsenal’s switch in system precipitated a moderate upturn in form, however, following Arsenal’s return to a back-four system, Kolašinac was less influential on the team’s performances.

When Wenger deaparted the club some twelve months later, Kolašinac found himself back in favour under Unai Emery. Though Emery opted for the same back-four system that Kolašinac disliked, the move was done mainly to accommodate the ever-mounting injury list that Arsenal had, with Héctor Bellerín, Laurent Koscielny and Rob Holding either out long-term or constant fixtures in the medical room.

Kolašinac thrived in Emery’s system. As Emery began to phase of Mesut Özil, Arsenal turned to Kolašinac as their main source of creativity, which while not the most elegant solution to Arsenal’s problems, was still a fairly profitable outlet for Emery and the team.

Following the signing of Kieran Tierney from Celtic for £25m, Kolašinac found himself playing second-fiddle once Tierney returned from injury. This meant that Kolašinac was usually reduced to apperances in the Europa League or whenever Arsenal looked to defend a lead.

Eventually, Emery’s tenure ended in disaster and Mikel Arteta took the reigns. Under Arteta, Arsenal once again opted for a back five. Usually, this would have meant utilising Kolašinac as a left-wing back once again, however, Arteta opted to use Kolašinac as a left centre-back in a back three.

Kolašinac enjoyed a profitable first season with Arsenal.

Though this positional change looked promising in the early stages, Kolašinac’s deficiencies in the position were soon exposed, especially in Arsenal’s 2-1 loss away to Tottenham, when Kolašinac’s back-pass allowed Son Heung-Min to score Tottenham’s equaliser.

Kolašinac’s time with Arsenal hasn’t been without it’s triumphs, the Bosnian was part of the squad for Arsenal’s League Cup final loss to Manchester City and the team’s Europa League final loss to Chelsea in Baku, however, he was also a huge part of the team that beat Chelsea in the Community Shield (opening the score on his debut) and winning the FA Cup last season.

The move will see Arsenal a man-down in defence, especially on the left-hand side, however, given Mikel Arteta’s penchant for playing either Kieran Tierney or Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Kolašinac’s chances are becoming few and far between.

Kolašinac’s departure is believed to be the first wave of players expected to leave the club in the January window, with Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, Mesut Özil and Sokratis all out of contract at the end of the season and free to negotiate pre-contract agreements elsewhere, there may be an expectation of Arsenal to move them all on in January.

In terms of incomings, Mikel Arteta’s desire for a creative midfielder is well-known, with Arsenal reportedly targeting Houssem Aouar of Lyon, Julian Brandt of Borussia Dortmund, Christopher Nkunku of RB Leipzig and Isco of Real Madrid, with the latter looking the more likely as the Spanish outfit favour a loan deal for the out-of-form midfielder and Arsenal failing in their attempt to land Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Salzburg. 

Meanwhile, with the aforementioned defenders looking to leave the club and William Saliba’s future as yet uncertain, it is thought that Arsenal may ponder a move for a right-sided central defender, with Dayot Upamecano of RB Leipzig previously of interest to the Arsenal recruitment team, though a move in January is unlikely as his release clause of £54m coming into effect this summer. 

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