HAPPINESS is… a hard-as-nails defender like Arsenal’s Sead Kolasinac.
Arsene Wenger’s teams down the years have been a pleasure to watch but sometimes found lacking in the physical department against sides like Saturday’s opponents Stoke.
Wenger believes tough-guy new signing Kolasinac has started so well that the Arsenal fans brought up on a diet of sexy football are now taking delight in the bruising challenges of the Bosnian.
Wenger said: “There is something there and you feel that always from the crowd.
“The determined attitude gets to the crowd and the crowd responds to that and that gives a swing to the team, you can see that with him and when he intervenes he provokes happiness.”
Club captain Per Mertesacker has also hailed Kolasinac as “massive and dangerous”, and Wenger believes he could be the most robust player he has had at Arsenal.
Wenger said: “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.”
Stoke loan signing Jese Rodriguez may not recognise this hard-but-fair description of former Schalke defender Kolasinac.
Rodriguez, then of Real Madrid, was out for nine months with knee ligament damage after Kolasinac fouled him in a Champions League game in 2014.
Rodriguez blames the incident for wrecking his Real career and will not relish coming up against Kolasinac again today.
It used to be Arsenal who did not look forward to playing Stoke.
And although they won 4-1 at the Britannia Stadium last season, in other games they appeared to lose the physical battle.
Wenger denies Arsenal were bullied in the last campaign but admits that his teams, in recent years, have lacked players of the physical strength of former captain Patrick Vieira.
Wenger said: “When we built the stadium we had to sell these players and we played with very young players.
“And at 18, 19, when we played Fabregas or Nasri when they were very young they had not the experience to deal with that so much.
“And we had less-physical players on top of that maybe, but as well most of the time it was because we had a very young team.
“We conceded too many goals last year but I had not the feeling [it was] especially because we were bullied.”
Kolasinac certainly won’t let that happen – and he’s pretty useful at the other end of the pitch, too.
The Bosnia international took his pre-season form into his Premier League debut, contributing an assist in the opening weekend victory over Leicester.
Wenger said: “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.”
In a summer in which full backs like Kyle Walker have been changing hands for up to £50m, the free transfer signing of Kolasinac looks like even more of a coup.
Wenger said: “We have scouts everywhere, basically.
“I think it was a good opportunity in Germany because we knew he was at the end of his contract.
“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 yes, 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 £50m (striker Alexandre Lacazette, signed from Lyon ) two for £25m.
“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.”
Which players could he be talking about, Alexis Sanchez?
The unsettled Chile international is set to be missing again from the Arsenal squad with an abdominal injury.
But Wenger’s team did not miss Sanchez’s attacking thrust much last week, scoring four times.
And Arsenal fans will be happier going to face the physical challenge of Stoke today with Kolasinac in the team.