From five offers to just two, Arsenal seem to closing in on the free transfer of Willian from Chelsea, but what will he bring to the side and does Mikel Arteta really want him or is this all more Kia Joorabchian games?
If you’ve been following reports of what sort of players Arsenal are looking to sign this summer, then you will know a few things:
- Arsenal are looking for a winger, midfielder, and central defender, at least.
- Arsenal need players to fit into Mikel Arteta’s 4-3-3 formation.
- Arsenal plan to go with a youthful team but want to add experience to support (and mentor) the kids.
- Arsenal have very little to spend on transfer fees.
Willian is a winger who mainly plays on the right, can also play on the left, and is even handy as an attacking midfielder. Plus, he’s available for ‘free,’ with the caveat that even free transfers aren’t actually free as the club just ends up loading part of the fee into wages and bonuses.
But for the purpose of this, he is without a fee.
Willian has also played in the Premier League for seven years with Chelsea, arriving in 2013 for £31.95m from Anzhi even though Tottenham thought they’d signed him. They were, you might remember, absolutely outraged at the whole thing which was hilarious.
Since he arrived in England to not sign for Tottenham, Willian has made 339 appearances for Chelsea, scoring 63 and assisting 62. Jose Mourinho bought him during his first spell at the club and, since then, the Brazilian has played under another four managers (Guus Hiddink, Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri, Frank Lampard), none of whom wanted to sell him and all of whom used him regularly.
Even Chelsea don’t want him to leave, but because their over-30 policy is far more strict than Arsenal’s (not that you’ll read much about that), they are only willing to offer him a two-year extension and he absolutely, positively, must have three.
I always thought they had similar profiles, but Willian is super similar to Iwobi at Arsenal statistically. pic.twitter.com/OzHYZ2DhvD
— BLAHOVIC (@Blahovic) August 4, 2020
If we go back to the list that started this post, we will see, then, that Willian does indeed fit all the criteria – he is the right position, can easily slot into a number of positions in Arteta’s formation, has extensive experience at all levels, has won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, the League Cup, and the Europa League with Chelsea as well as the Copa America with his country.
Plus, he’s ‘free’ and not over-the-hill.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
The elephant in the room, of course, is that Willian is represented by Kia Joorabchian, who has already embedded himself at Arsenal through his chum Raul Sanllehi, Edu, our director of football and Kia’s client, along with David Luiz, and Cedric Soares.
If Joorabchian gets his way, Phillippe Coutinho will also become an Arsenal player this summer in a move that is starting to take shape and is not entirely ridiculous.
We will likely never know if Arteta asked for Willian or Kia suggested him and Raul liked the look of the envelopes his friend was using. But, leaving all our ethics aside for the time being, does it really matter if the player is good?
Willian would arrive knowing what it takes to play in a winning side and has shown he is a player multiple managers are willing to make a first team starter. There have been many revamps at Chelsea since he arrived, yet he’s still there. He has also never played fewer than 40 games a season in England, so his injury record is superb as well.
Even at 31 (32 on Sunday), a number of top clubs were having a look at him and Willian received five offers before opting for Arsenal, if reports from Brazil are to be believed. He has scored four goals since the restart, grabbed three assists, and was a key player in helping Chelsea secure a top four spot this season. There is certainly plenty of life left in his legs.
There are many questions that can and will be asked around this move, should it go ahead, given the agent involved, but Willian will bring to Arsenal a lot of what we desperately need – proven winners at the top level that won’t break the bank.
It’s hard to complain about that if it happens, no matter who is behind it.