What would Schalke defender Sead Kolasinac bring to Arsenal?
This article first appeared on ESPN FC on April 17 and has been updated.
Could Sead Kolasinac be the answer to Arsenal's defensive problems? The Gunners have agreed to sign the Schalke left-back on a free transfer this summer, a source has told ESPN FC.
Kolasinac has been linked with several top Premier League clubs in the past, including Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Everton, but Arsenal have reportedly beaten off competition from AC Milan for his signature.
Part of the 23-year-old Bosnia international's appeal is no doubt that he's available for free, but would he be a brilliant bargain or another one of Arsene Wenger's cheap solutions?
A defender who defends
Arsenal's current full-backs, Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs, are mostly known for their ability to push forward and take part in attacks -- often leaving the two central defenders badly exposed to counterattacks.
Kolasinac, however, is a defender whose strength is actually to defend. The Bosnia-Herzegovina international is excellent in one-on-one situations, often dealing with attacking wingers by simply muscling them off the ball. His upper-body strength certainly sets him apart from Arsenal's current left-back options and should make him a good fit for the Premier League.
A physical presence and a tough attitude is exactly what the Gunners' back four needs, and Kolasinac would provide both. That's not to say he wouldn't be a threat going forward. He can also deliver excellent crosses with his left foot, and has the energy to make raids down the flank.
A left-back for the future
Arsenal need a long-term solution to the left-back position and, at 23, Kolasinac is almost at a perfect age: experienced enough to play immediately but young enough to have his best years ahead of him.
Nacho Monreal's form has dipped this season, and the Spaniard could already be past his best at 31. Kieran Gibbs is 27 and is unlikely to get much better than he already is -- which isn't good enough for a regular starting role.
If Kolasinac signs, Gibbs is almost certain to move elsewhere this summer. But that seems like a strong possibility regardless.
Best value for money...
Wenger loves nothing more than a bargain, and players don't come cheaper than for free.
The price of top-quality defenders has skyrocketed in recent years, as evidenced by Arsenal's decision to spend around £35 million on centre-back Shkodran Mustafi last summer. In that sense, Kolasinac seems like fantastic value for money, even though the lack of a transfer fee is likely to be partly offset by a higher salary.
Other top full-backs on the market are likely to fetch north of £30m this summer, money that Arsenal could now free up for other big-name targets instead.
...or the cheap option?
Having said that, should Arsenal really be looking for bargains at a time when they're struggling badly to keep up with their rivals, or is this the time to really splash the cash on truly top-level talent?
Kolasinac is certainly a good player, but most experts still rank him below the likes of Wolfsburg's Ricardo Rodriguez, Monaco's Benjamin Mendy and Valencia's Jose Luis Gaya on the list of top young left-backs.
All three of those players would offer more technical skills that could make them a better fit in Wenger's possession-based system. They would also demand hefty transfer fees, and it's far from certain that Arsenal could force through a deal for either of them.
But if Wenger and the club want to show they're serious about turning things around next season, snapping up free transfers may not be the best way to go.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.