Why Willian Is The Missing Link for Arsenal

On various blogs, including this one, doubts have been raised about the need to sign Willian on a free. From a pure football-technical point of view, I can only see benefits in signing him on a free. He offers experience of winning the league which very few Arsenal players can say they do (only his fellow countryman Luiz if I am remember rightly). Willian is sixth best key-pass-deliver in the PL and scored nine PL goals and produced seven PL assist in just 2600 minutes of football last season. 

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I like Nelson and I am sure he has a bright future, but Arteta will want to move on next season and he cannot say no to an experienced PL player at the top of his game. Nelson will get chances, either at Arsenal or on loan, but he will have to convince Arteta that he can deliver the goods in every game he plays. Willian has a great work ethic and will revel at Arsenal, using his experience to help us make the difference when it matters. Signing him up for three years and for Nelson to compete with him with the aim to usurp the Brazilian eventually makes perfect sense to me. Yes he became 32 today but there are a couple of good years left in him, of that I am convinced.

Some have mentioned that we already have Pepe and Willian would play in his place, so it makes little sense to have him join Arsenal. But I say we need to strengthen our right flank for next season. Our left flank is looking awesome with the likes of Tierney, Saka, Martinelli and Auba combining so effectively, but something was still missing on our right flank. Putting Willian in midfield with the aim to link up with both Pepe and Bellerin looks like a great move to me.

As per these two teams below, Willian could add real value without Arteta having to bench an experienced player. 4-3-3 looks perhaps too attacking but if Saka and Willian are drilled properly on their defensive and positional responsibilities it could work a treat.

I am a huge fan of 4-5-1 and Willian would once again fit perfectly in this formation. Against any of our top-four competitors this would give us both great protection of the defence and great midfield/passing/attacking play.

I don’t think Arteta’s vision is to continue playing a 3-4-3 formation for long, but say he is planning to do so Willian would still fit in. I strongly feel that Pepe would be most effective through the middle so he can much better find time and space to trigger his left lethal foot. With Auba on the left, Pepe central and Willian on the right wing, but with a license to roam centrally, we could be on to a much more effective attack:

Arsenal are desperate to get more goals from midfield and Willian would be just the player to do that. Nelson can learn from him, Pepe will benefit from the quality link-up play and on-field coaching. Ceballos will learn from him (if indeed he stays). Saka, Willock, ESR will all learn from him. Auba will get great service. We will get an extra 12-18 PL goals/assists a season. What’s not to like?!

So for me it is a no-brainer: Willian to Arsenal would be great news.

By TotalArsenal.


39 thoughts on “Why Willian Is The Missing Link for Arsenal

  • Well said TA. I agree 100%

    I don’t see a negative but there are several positives. I can easily see a 10/10 season out of him.

    1. He’s a winner. He knows what it takes and knows how to prepare for big games and for long seasons.
    2. He is durable. Isn’t coming over with injury concerns. This is important. I’m all for project youth but youth can struggle with consistency and the step up to regular football against bigger bodies. Martinelli, nielson, ESR have all had their injury concerns. Even Saka dropped off towards the end (in fairness he was playing a lot). They will have opportunities to play.
    3. Free. Only wage costs.
    4. Competition is a good thing. Who better for the young types to learn from? They all have pace to burn as does Willian. He can help them to use it effectively instead of running down blind alleys like Theo.
    5. He has pace to burn. The modern game needs pace. Look what Auba was able to do with a bit of space on the left. Imagine having the devastating pace on the right too.
    6. Willian is a hard worker. If Arteta can get him pressing hard he can add another element to our defensive structures.
    7. From memory he is capable of playing the WB role if required. On the right wing, right midfield or WB…we have options.

    A real no-brainer.

  • If Auba is definitely extended, and Lacazette goes, both of which I’m hearing may happen, then I’m ok with Willian coming. Also hearing the AMN may go because someone has to, and in the names I mentioned yesterday, he was the last on the winger depth chart, which would include Auba if Laca doesn’t go. I was really appreciating AMNs versatility at LB and rb, plus the improved effort he showed. But for a club that depends on matchday gate revenue, we have to make some painful choices and can’t afford such luxury.

    But I still have Pepe and Saka ahead of Willian in my book. Both have a much higher ceiling than what Willian has achieved. Pepe in particular was showing more brilliance for Arteta lately. Lets not exaggerate Willian’s importance as a player for Chelsea just because he may be coming to Arsenal, please. I can imagine Arteta will mix them wisely though.

  • All good points, OzG.I think Arteta kept both Martinelli and Saka on the bench after a period of being used a lot (like you also said re Saka). I think that indeed simply was to protect them against injury, as so many young players in the past got badly injured after playing a lot of games in a row. Unfortunately, Martinelli still got badly injured during a training session if I remember rightly.

  • Cheers JYNC, they may have a higher celling eventually but for the next few years he is above them.

    Willian was important to the Chavs. I could see that as a football lover and the stats back it up. There is need to exaggerate his qualities or importance. He is one of the best attacking players in the PL.

  • If I’m being honest I have to admit that I was quite underwhelmed when this transfer was first mooted, and don’t transfer take forever these days, but I’ve quite warmed to the deal and can see the benefits behind it and the immediacy of the effects that Willian (or William) will have to our team and squad, also the fact that Chelsea wanted to keep him raises his profile to me.

    If, as suggested, Lacazette moves, then it opens up a raft of options for Willian and Arteta. Maybe playing Pepe through the middle is one of them as I’m not assuming that PEA is going to switch to centre forward. Tbh Lacazette didn’t play as a centre forward all the time, he often dropped into midfield a lot of the time and acted as the link between Tierney/Niles/Auba and Pepe/Bellerin.

    Can Eddie play that role is need be?

    Leno seems to have hit a few snags in his recovery, nothing serious I hope, but it opens the door for Martinez to start next season and saves Arteta a very difficult decision, it also means that Matt Macey might get a game or three in the UEFA and League Cups.

    Good post Total btw…

  • Hi Kev, I think the Mhki experience has made us weary of signing older players from rivals. I am confident that Willian is different, though. Chelsea missed him against us in the FA cup final, and yes Lamp did not want to let him go.

    I think Pepe is too one footed to keep him on the wing, but in the centre he could be the beast we need. And then there is Eddie of course, who can do the Laca role really well too. 😁

  • Yes Total, dear old Micky, he was bang average at Man Utd and even more average at Arsenal although he seems to have found his level in Serie A, with Willian he’s been excellent at Chelsea so he comes with 7 years of really top level performances behind him and I’ve no doubt he’ll continue in that vein at Arsenal, but yeah I get your point about signing older players.

    Some had even questioned the proposed (not going to happen) swap of Guendouzi and Partey because the latter is 27, but I’d rather have 5 great years from an older player rather 10 average years from a younger player. Maybe we need to look less at the age and concentrate more on the quality? I’m as much to blame in that regard…

  • Great article, TA. By all means, get Willian in; I won’t be complaining about a player who never missed from the spot and takes a mean free kick. Of course, at 32 (today) it does look curious that we gave him a 3 year deal but it’s needs must, I imagine, as Arteta would like to put trophies in the cabinet every year, till we can win the EPL in latter years as the kids warm into their roles, after learning from such an experienced campaigner. Willian may have been a different proposition had he been fit for the FA cup final so I was happy he was unfit for that one.

    For the medium term, good signing, if we can add Coutinho to the group, even better. Our team will be the better for it with a “gang” from Brazil; Martinelli, Mari, Luis, Coutinho and Willian.

  • Sorry been out the game a bit on other fam stuff and work.

    The good bit of business with Willian is that presently as a Europa league team, the club’s getting champion’s league pedigree, which can’t be baulked at…

    Signings like that, mixed with talented youth gives the best chance of being able to catapult into a top 4 space ahead of schedule.

    By having 3yrs on it, if that’s the length of the contract, it possibly allows a review after two to perhaps also get a return by selling to a Chinese /Middle Eastern or US club too 🤔

  • Shame I think if AMN goes – especially with Spuds lurking….wouldn’t begrudge him though if it’s a case that your boyhood club wants to sell you. There then shouldn’t need to be any loyalty from his side either. Will definitely miss his versatility though!

  • Cheerrs Eris, I am not sure whether we will see Countinho join as well. Where would he play? Would we change formation to accommodate him or was Arteta planning this anyway?


    —— Ceballos – Xhaka ———


  • Nice to hear from you again, 5am (and Eris).. Some players can go on longer and Willian seems to have that sort of physique. Also at the end of his contract he will still be 34, so I really dont see an issue re his age.

    Agreed re AMN. He is extremely one footed but could be a great option on the right or even in midfield.I guess he also has Nelson and Willock to play on the right and that is quite a few youngsters to fit in next season. Still it is a shame if he were to go.

  • Letting AMN go will be a huge mistake. Like Gnabry.
    He saved the defense countless times this season and we do not have another strong player like him that can put opposition attackers in their pocket, and is eager to win the ball and play the ball forward quickly.

    Back to your original topic of this post TA, Willian is an out and out winger, and it will be good to change the formation to suit him, in a 3-5-2 position. This will also mean that Ozil comes in, as 3-5-2 is the best formation to suit Ozil’s creativeness.

    It will be criminal not to play the crowd favourite Ozil and if Coutinho comes in we will be in a good position creatively.

  • Morning all, excuse my absence – just feeling a bit low.

    I have always liked Willian and it’s only his age that gives me doubts, the older a player gets the more his body gives in to the vigor’s of English football – so maybe it a 3 year contract that would bother me the most. But I cannot see any evidence that we have actually signed him, just a lot of media speculation.

    It obvious that we have to sell players, and we all have our own favourites, i just hope that none of of younger players are under consideration, even AMN as he has definitely improved under the tutelage of Arteta and IMLTHO will only get better.

  • Hey GN5, sorry to hear you are a bit low but this is of course to be expected after your recent loss. Keep strong buddie.

    The third year contract is a it of a risk but I guess that is the price we are actually paying for him and who knows it may still be a very productive one.

  • TA, Ozil is still the most creative player in the team. It defies common sense that he is also giving his all but failed to play under a new system under Mikel, when he is regularly playing under him before the lockdown.

  • I’m with NJK on Özil/Coutinho.
    But I don’t share his AMN/Gnabry analogy.

    I’ll go on a holiday and visit 5 countries in the next 2 weeks. I will have limited internet access (and me-time), but I’m definitely going to read the new posts, albeit unlikely will be able to comment.

    Looking forward to beat Liverpool in the Community Shield.

  • Get French Football News
    L’Équipe claim that Lille defender Gabriel is expected to make a final decision between Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton & Napoli this week – whichever club will sign him will pay €30m excluding bonuses for him.

    LG, you must know this guy pretty well, what would he bring to our defence if he decided to move to London to link up with his old pal Pepe again?
    Do you think that €30m is value for money or are there any other defenders out their in Ligue Un who would be as good of better for less?

  • One thing that I’ve noticed since Arteta arrived at Arsenal is a slight increase and proficiency in how Arsenal players work the referee and manage certain aspects of the game as in the past and particularly under Arsene Wenger we seemed a bit too pure, as Clive Palmer put it on the AV podcast, focusing on the aesthetics of the game more that the result, but not anymore and Arteta seems to have learnt this from his time under Guardiola. He may in fact have always felt that any successful team needed to utilise gamesmanship (the old term) to gain any kind of advantage over their opponents as they would against us and his tenure at City just seems to have solidified that belief?

    The referee in the Cup Final took quite a bit of criticism from some areas of the media and in particular those sections that were pro Chelsea or just anti Arsenal, but that view didn’t get much traction because in general Arsenal deserved the win a fact that stuck in the media’s throat but that made the result all the more sweeter.

    Xhaka and company seem to have developed a nice line in going down under minimal contact, often when fouled but not always, in order to get the referee to act. Arsenal had for years suffered at the hands of more cynical opponents and ineffective and indecisive referees so I find it enjoyable to see us getting the rub of the green at last. It takes a bit of getting used to because it’s not really what Arsenal have done for the best part of 20 years but I’m warming to it.

    It won’t suit everyone I know and some more idealistic fans will find it difficult to accept at times but for old cynics like me well I love it because in general the media dislike Arsenal so I enjoy sticking it to them.

  • Before the lockdown, Özil was played in his fav 10 position. He played better than with UE, the creativity was there, still work to do for the team but imporvement for all. After the lockdown, no more Özil, a system without a 10, wins, losses, lack of creativity even MA admitted but still no Özil involved while he was ready. A new system without a 10, OK.
    Now Borges (yes, Willian’s name) arrives and suddenly according to Ornstein, he’ll play as a 10. Oh, suddenly a 10 is on track again for MA. Now we’ve got… no more Özil but a less creative player who Chelsea didn’t want to renew (contrary to Arsenal they DO believe in young players), who will take the position of a young one (Emile, Joe, Saka, Gab?) BUT agent Kia intervenes and finds the perfect club for his client: still in London and with a direction that he knows very well being friends of them and having placed already several players in a couple of months. Consolation: the last minutes Özil played for Arsenal allowed him to give a perfect assist to Laca showing his skill. Everybody has forgotten about it, the scapegoat is chosen, he is the reason of the 55 sacked ones (not Borges we didn’t need), the contrat is unilaterally broken, the club has no word, NOT bad word is said about him from the club but who cares, and everybody is happy.

  • In Arteta’s Arsenal you cannot just be the top of the Swan’s body, you will have to peddle hard down below as well. Which modern football team is still carrying ‘an Ozil’? Yes I miss his creativity and guile but Arteta has asked for more from him and appears to not get it. At Pool and Citeh all work their socks off and Arteta wants the same at Arsenal. The addition of Willian therefore makes sense, and the youngsters will learn from him… and that is what they want most: masters to learn from.

  • Cheers Kev, I don’t like diving or over-accentuating fouls and am a big believer in karma, so sooner or later it will bite us in the Arse again. I still feel embarrassed for the Chav sending off after Xhaka’s overreaction. But I get your point in general and talking to the ref I am all for.

  • That’s true Total and I fully take your point especially as I don’t want Arsenal to get a name for simulation, but you have to use all the tools at your disposal it’s just a case of using them with moderation and only when you really need to because if you don’t you’ll always be at a disadvantage as everyone else ‘tries it on’ just as Liverpool and Man City do.

    Didn’t Chelsea take Olivier Giroud from Arsenal and dear old Olly isn’t exactly in the first flush of his youth?

    Look at Aubameyang, he’s well into his 30’s but he is fit, healthy and shows no signs of slowing down with age, in fact he is probably more intelligent now in how he uses his energy and picks and chooses his time to engage. He also doesn’t get involved in the more robustious areas of contact with defenders so he avoids the flying and late tackles of opponents. Even if he was switched to centre forward I can still, see him drifting left to receive the ball.

  • Total a question – and for anyone as it goes, if Arsenal do sell Alex Lacazette do you think that Arteta will replace him or will he go with Nketiah and Martinelli when he’s fit, bearing in mind that Aubameyang will switch ‘on paper’ to centreforward?

  • just read your comment, kev; been quite busy lately (granpa’s duty)
    i became a bein subscriber because they have the carabao and fa cup games; but it also allows me to watch one ligue 1 game every week (i don’t always do, more on this further down – point 2), that’s how i saw lille play a couple of times
    this gabriel lad catches the eye, tbh, whether it be pace, positioning, passing (he’s left-footed – with mari, that’d make two of them, since medley seems to be on his way out to gillingham – on loan), aggression, … from what i saw it looks like he’s endowed with the whole modern defender outfit (and he’s only 22); it’s easy to figure out why mick may have an interest in him, even though there are a few caveats imo (there always are, of course)
    1: i didn’t see him play against one of the “big” teams (psg, lyon, marseille, maybe rennes)
    2: dear BKers, you may not realize this, but below the fifth place, Ligue 1 has become very poor, so it might be interesting to get the opinion of anyone having seen him play against the teams i’ve just mentioned. we have to keep in mind that lille didn’t exist in the 19/20 champions’ league group stage – they were bullied by valencia-ajax-chelsea. i watched the ajax game (in amsterdam), but i didn’t pay much attention to lille, i watched the game for ten hag’s ajax (at the time, i hoped ten hag would be gudebening’s successor)
    3: because of (1) and (2), i think £30m’s a lot in these very uncertain times
    but i’m biased, as you know well: right now, i would like us to spend nothing, and make it to the champions’ league with the current squad (we would – under mikel, if wolves win the europa league – and i’d rather like them to, we’ll have soundly beaten the five English teams qualified for the C. L.)_
    then – next year – mesut/luiz/papa/mkhi/shkodran contracts will have come to an end (auba’s would have to, were it not for the vegas extension he’s about to be given), so much so that, added to the money we’d have saved this summer, the club would have had quite a lofty amount to spend (on younger players) so we might not be just cannon fodder for the big clubs in 20/21 champions’ league
    last, but not least:
    first, i’m very much against ainsley leaving, he’s one of us and he’s the kind of hard-working guy that’ll never stop improving, and … well; it’d hurt, that’s all
    second, i find the different ways auba and laca are rated very unfair: ever since the 17-18 season started, auba has played 6927 minutes in the PL, laca 6593. auba has scored 54, laca 37. but auba has put away 7 penalties, laca none.
    which means that, had laca, not auba, been the penalty-taker (he’s a very effective one – scored a lot of them for lyon), auba would have scored one goal every 147 minutes (47), and laca every … 149 minutes (44)
    sic transit gloria mundi, I guess …
    cheers to all of you (have a great tour, pb)– there’s been a heatwave goin’ on here, i spend my days tryin’ to provide shadow and water for my granddaughter – can’t wait for the rain to pour down on us

  • Since I am here while there’s already a “New post”, I will keep it short.

    Kev, thumbs up for all of your comments on this thread. Somehow, you’ve managed to articulate my thoughts about the subject(s) better than I would ever have done. I share the same thoughts, for instance, about our new found gamesmanship and I say long may it continue, so long as it doesn’t reach levels that give us a media tag. I read an article which referred to the Mancs as “Penalty FC”, rightly so, with 21 penalties in all competitions, so far. Incredible!

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