Stoke v Arsenal: Kolasinac key for Wenger
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Gunners boss backs newcomer to impress
Arsenal face a traditionally tough trip to Stoke this weekend but in Sead Kolasinac, manager Arsene Wenger believes he has the perfect man to deal with the situation.
The Gunners travel to the Bet365 Stadium to continue a rivalry which developed as a clash of two sides with a different approach to the game after Stoke’s promotion to the Premier League.
The ill-feeling only intensified after a Ryan Shawcross tackle on Aaron Ramsey in 2010 left the midfielder with a double leg fracture.
But while Wenger’s Arsenal continue to play in a similar fashion, Mark Hughes has been tasked with altering the Stoke approach.
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That meant less of an in-your-face battle for Arsenal and this was borne out with a 4-1 win for the visitors in this corresponding fixture last season, their first victory in the Potteries since that game in February 2010.
But if the going does get rough for the FA Cup holders on Saturday, Wenger has backed new-boy Kolasinac to handle the pressure.
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“He has started well,” said Wenger of the summer arrival from Schalke.
“Maybe he is the strongest, he is naturally strong. He uses quite well the strength of his body without violence and when he intervenes it doesn’t look to be a foul, he just uses his body strength.
“It is an important quality to help adapt to the Premier League.
“He has the capacity to repeat runs and we noticed when we watched him play that he is quite dangerous in the final third.
“He already has some assists since he came here so overall maybe he is not a glamorous dribbler but the quality of his runs are very efficient.
“The determined attitude gets to the crowd and that gives a swing to the team, you can see that with him and when he intervenes he provokes happiness.”
Kolasinac has already been taken to the hearts of most Arsenal fans after he headed home a late equaliser in their Community Shield penalty shoot-out win over Chelsea.
The Bosnia-Herzegovina international then laid on a goal for Danny Welbeck in the Premier League opener against Leicester last weekend - which Arsenal went on to win 4-3.
Wenger said it was a “no-brainer” to bring in Kolasinac for free after his contract at Schalke came to an end and believes the signing offsets the club-record fee paid for Alexandre Lacazette later in the summer.
“I think it was a good opportunity in Germany because we knew he was at the end of his contract,” he said.
“Watching him, I thought he had the quality. I met him and he had a good spirit and a good attitude so basically overall it was a no-brainer for us.
“It is a nice bargain because it allows you to divide your buy by two. When you buy two players, the price of one you buy you can divide by two. One player for £50million is two for £25million.
“You might find it more and more, I have said it many times, that more and more players will go to the end of their contract because the transfer is too high, the inflation is too high and the agents will be demanding and clubs will not be in a position to extend contracts.”
Kolasinac may revert to play at left wing-back on Saturday as Germany international pair Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi return to the squad.
Alexis Sanchez is still not fit enough to make his first appearance of the season with an abdominal strain keeping the Chile forward on the sidelines as speculation over his future rumbles on.
Meanwhile, the club have announced that defender Gabriel had joined La Liga club Valencia for an undisclosed fee.
He made 64 appearances after joining from Villarreal in January 2015 and was an unused substitute in the FA Cup final win over Aston Villa later that year.
But after a strong display against Manchester City in last season’s semi-final, he missed out on the final due to injury following a tackle with Everton’s Enner Valencia on the last day of the Premier League season.