Mesut Ozil's future is uncertain but Arsenal's creative burden has been taken on by an unlikely source in his absence. Nick Wright examines how Sead Kolasinac has become Unai Emery's playmaker-in-chief.
Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac had Arsenal fans drooling with their combination to set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 3-1 win over Burnley before Christmas. First, Ozil split the defence with an impeccable diagonal pass. Then, running at full speed, Kolasinac flicked the ball back from the byline for the waiting Aubameyang. One-nil Arsenal.
Ozil has hardly featured since then, an apparent knee injury adding to the growing sense of uncertainty surrounding his future, but Kolasinac has continued to provide a dangerous outlet on Arsenal's left flank. In fact, the Bosnian's creativity has become even more important to Arsenal in the absence of his friend and team-mate.
It was certainly evident in their 4-1 win over Fulham. Kolasinac was involved in each of Arsenal's first three goals that day. There was the pass for Alex Iwobi to set up Granit Xhaka's opener, the cut-back from which Alexandre Lacazette made it two, and finally the low cross turned in by Aaron Ramsey after Aubameyang's initial effort had bounced back off the post.
According to Opta, Arsenal directed 42 per cent of their attacks down their left flank against Fulham, compared to 22 per cent through the middle and 36 per cent down the right. Kolasinac finished the game with only one assist but he created more chances (four) than anyone else on the pitch. Only Xhaka had more touches or made more passes.
Kolasinac remains suspect at the back - the meeting with Fulham might have gone differently had Ryan Sessegnon been able to capitalise on two glaring chances in his defensive zone in the first half and there was also a costly error in the 2-2 draw with Manchester United - but he insists Emery's coaching is improving him at both ends of the pitch.