After a troubled season at Arsenal, Willian’s Arsenal contract has been terminated and he is no longer an Arsenal player, but should he have ever been one in the first place?
Willian has been allowed to leave Arsenal by mutual consent, despite having two years left on his deal, in order to find him a new home. He will join Corinthians in Brazil.
To be fair, the signing of Willian, initially, did not seem like a bad one. He had starred in his last season at Chelsea and they wanted him to sign a new deal. Chelsea offered two, Willian wanted three, and he ended up at Arsenal who agreed to pay him £200,000-per-week for the duration.
Willian 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.
After arriving in England to not sign for Tottenham, Willian made 339 appearances for Chelsea, scoring 63 and assisting 62. Jose Mourinho bought him during his first spell at the club and, after that, the Brazilian 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.
Chelsea didn’t even want him to leave last summer, but because their over-30 policy is far more strict than Arsenal’s (not that you’ll read much about that), they were only willing to offer him a two-year extension and he absolutely, positively, wanted three.
I always thought they had similar profiles, but Willian is super similar to Iwobi at Arsenal statistically. pic.twitter.com/OzHYZ2DhvD
— . (@Blahovic) August 4, 2020
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.
We will likely never know if Arteta asked for Willian or Kia suggested him and Raul liked the idea. Incidentally, Willian was signed three days before Sanllehi resigned.
But, leaving all our ethics aside for the time being, none of that would have mattered if Willian had even been 50% of the player we saw at Chelsea.
Alas, after never playing fewer than 40 games a season when at Chelsea, Willian leaves Arsenal having played 37. He scored one (against West Brom in September), and assisted six. He also managed to fly to Dubai ‘on business’ without permission nor getting in trouble. As his final hurrah! Willian liked an Instagram post from Chelsea after they beat Arsenal in matchday 2.
Willian arrived at Arsenal knowing what it takes to play in a winning side (he’s won more trophies than any other player at Arsenal by a distance) and had shown he was a player multiple managers were willing to make a first team starter. Mikel Arteta was no different.
The Arsenal manager started Willian in 12 of the first 14 league games, benching him for one while a calf niggle ruled him out for the other. Conveniently, Willian was ‘ill’ for the Christmas games when Arsenal finally turned things around somewhat with that win over Chelsea on Boxing Day, followed by a win over Brighton.
Willian started only four more league matches after that and didn’t even make the matchday squad for the final three league games of the season.
There are many questions that can and will be asked around this move, should it have went ahead, given the agent involved, but Willian failed to bring to Arsenal a lot of what we desperately needed – proven winners at the top level that wouldn’t break the bank in terms of a fee.
In the end, Willian cost Arsenal regardless.
Willian Arsenal contract termination statement
Arsenal wrote, “We have reached a mutual agreement with Willian to terminate his contract effective from today.
“The Brazil international joined us from Chelsea last August and made 37 appearances during the 2020/21 campaign.
“He had two more years to run on his contract but following positive and constructive recent discussions with him and his team, he will be leaving for a new opportunity with Corinthians in Brazil, where he began his career.
“Everyone at Arsenal wishes Willian and his family well for the future.
“The contract termination is subject to the completion of regulatory processes.”