Willian offers Arteta and Arsenal invaluable experience.
Acquiring a player of Willian’s calibre on a free transfer would be cause for celebration at most clubs. But this deal has raised more than a few eyebrows amongst Arsenal fans.
Gunners fans have questioned the club’s ambition. There are worries about the player’s age, 32, and the length of the contract – three years – following his move from Chelsea. There were also questions raised after the deal went through following a raft of redundancies at the club.
On the pitch, however, Mikel Arteta is investing in something a lot more valuable.
Willian’s winning record
The Gunners’ signing of Willian does not match the intent rival clubs have shown already in this transfer window. But given the financial restrictions placed upon Arsenal as a result of no Champions League football, the Brazilian’s arrival should be seen as a stepping stone in Arteta’s long-term project.
Willian joins William Gallas, Petr Cech and David Luiz on the list of Chelsea players who have made the switch to north London. However, the Brazilian winger may have the most to offer.
The Brazilian’s record speaks for itself – seven domestic cups, six league titles, European silverware and 70 caps for his national team. He is a serial winner. Willian offers something that is, in Arteta’s eyes, is invaluable and more important than any stat can measure – a winning mentality.
“He brings a lot of quality and something that we need, which is winners,” Arteta said.
“He has the experience of winning almost everything in the footballing world but to still have the ambition to come here and contribute to bringing this club back to where it belongs.”
Value of experience
One of the Spaniard’s most important goals for Arsenal is to develop a winning culture. He made that abundantly clear in his first press conference and has reinforced its importance consistently since.
This may explain why David Luiz was handed a contract extension at the age of 33. Or why Arteta has retained the 31-year-old Greek defender Sokratis. Arteta will hope to form a competitive team from mixing the qualities of these experienced players and the younger players at the Emirates.
Willian may be entering the autumn of his career but he had arguably the best season of his career last year. It was certainly his best campaign since joining Chelsea from Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013.
Due to Mesut Ozil’s prolonged absence, Arsenal have lacked a creative spark in the final third. However, this is something the Brazilian can re-inject.
Willian led Chelsea last season for chances created and with key passes per game (2.1). The winger has also tied his Premier league assists record with seven, amassing more than any other player at the Blues. He carried his weight in the goal-scoring department too, netting nine in the Premier League, second only to Tammy Abraham at Chelsea.
The Brazilian is also versatile. He can play on either wing, in the number 10 position or behind the striker. Arteta, a tactically astute coach, will value Willian’s adaptability.
It is always questionable when a club lets one of their key players move to a rival, so this begs the question of why has Frank Lampard let him go?
The Chelsea boss expressed his appreciation for Willian and desire to keep him at Stamford Bridge. However, Willian wanted a three-year deal and Chelsea were only willing to offer the 32-year old a two-year contract.
While there would have been increased competition for spots, with new Chelsea signings Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner playing in similar positions.
Question marks about the deal
A two-year contract would have been ideal for the Gunners, but it seems that a three-year contract was the only option. Arsenal fans should expect a strong first two seasons from the Brazilian, but his ability could begin to wane as he enters the final year of his contract leading to a familiar situation.
Arsenal have experience with a player on big wages sitting on the bench in Ozil. The German playmaker was handed a jaw-dropping contract after entering his final six months. Unable to offload to a club who are willing to match the 31-year-old’s wages, Arsenal is tied down by a £350,000 ball and chain.
The Daily Mail reports that Willian will earn a staggering £220,000 a week at the Gunners which means by the time the Brazilian’s contract ends Arsenal would have spent around £35 million on the player. Arsenal won’t be able to sell a player of his age for anything substantial, so this does seem like bad business especially considering their financial woes.
Director Josh Kroenke described Arsenal as having a Champions League wage bill with a Europa League budget. A veteran star on a luxurious contract should be a concern for the club, who just recently made 55 employees redundant because of financial strain.
Yet, one statistic that could bode well for the longevity of Willian’s career – he has never played less than 40 games a season for Chelsea in his seven-year span at the club. A remarkable figure that emphasises not only his ability to avoid injuries but his importance to Chelsea.
If Willian performs as he has done over the next three seasons, starting with the Community Shield against Liverpool on Saturday, then it will be a bargain for Arsenal.
And, if performances do dip, then Willian’s experience in the dressing room should be seen as a redeemable quality.