Willian won two Premier League titles and made 339 appearances for Chelsea during his seven-year stint at the club. He ultimately left the Blues at the end of last season and joined Arsenal on a free transfer.
Frank Lampard wanted to keep his former teammate at Stamford Bridged and pushed Chelsea to agree on a new contract with the Brazilian. But months of negotiations led to no solution and the winger eventually left the club.
Chelsea were only prepared to offer a two-year deal to the 32-year-old as part of the club’s policy but Willian wanted the stability of a three-year deal. Both sides failed to reach a compromise and his departure from Stamford Bridge became an inevitability.
Arsenal were happy to offer him a three-year contract and his reported £250,000 per week salary makes him one of the top ten best-paid players in the Premier League.
What will Willian add to the Arsenal squad?
The Brazilian is a two-time Premier League winner and has been one of the most consistent wingers in the league over the last seven years. He will add some much-needed experience to an Arsenal squad who are young and prone to mental fragility.
He was largely deployed on the right side of Chelsea’s forward line in the last seven years but Arsenal have a £72m player to feature on the right flank in Nicolas Pepe.
Mikel Arteta has talked about Willian’s ability to play multiple roles in the team and he is expected to play as an attacking midfielder in the Gunners team.
The Arsenal boss has more or less ostracized Mesut Ozil and needs a player who will play between the lines and will connect the attack with the midfield.
Willian will provide more graft and energy to that role compared to Ozil but it remains to be seen how quickly adapts to an unfamiliar role. It will be a gamble Arteta will be taking and he will be banking on Willian using his experience to get used to the position.
The Brazilian can still provide an option on the right flank if Nicolas Pepe continues to underwhelm next season. Willian can also play on the left-flank and might feature in that role if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gets the central role next season.
Did Arsenal need Willian?
Arsenal are working under a very tight budget after missing out on Champions League football for the fourth season running. Their transfer kitty is not huge and Willian presented as an opportunity to sign an experience Premier League performer on a free transfer.
But how ‘free’ is the free transfer? Willian received a massive signing-on fee in addition to the agent fees Kia Joorabchian was paid to get the deal done. Arsenal have committed around £36m in wages over the next three years for a 32-year-old winger.
In retrospect, Willian has been an expensive signing for a club who carried out job cuts to save money recently and sacked all the heads of their scouting department.
The Brazilian also seems like a luxury addition. Arsenal have an expensive right-winger in Nicolas Pepe in the squad and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played his best football on the left flank. If Willian is to be used in the attacking midfield role, why not resurrect Mesut Ozil?
The German has made it clear that he won’t be leaving Arsenal before the end of his contract, which expires next year. He is the highest-paid player in the squad with a £350,000 per week contract.
Willian surely adds a lot to the squad but Arsenal need defenders and central midfielder more than a winger and with a limited budget, the Brazilian looks like a signing, they were not crying out for.
The influence of Kia Joorabchian on Arsenal’s recruitment
The role of Kia Joorabchian in taking Willian to Arsenal was unmissable. The Iranian super agent’s growing influence on the club’s recruitment has been apparent.
While Arsene Wenger was desperate to keep Arsenal from the clutches of super-agents, the modern hierarchy have entrusted too much responsibility of recruitment to a narrow list of associates that includes Joorabchian.
The 49-year-old agent’s public pronouncements have also been a source of discomfort for many who feel he has too much influent on Arsenal at the moment.
He recently lambasted former Arsenal head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, the man who signed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, for making bad signings for the Gunners.
In the build up to Arsenal offering David Luiz an extension earlier this year, the Iranian said:
“There are several issues within the whole structure that will be resolved.”
These seemed like words of an agent who has way too much understanding of the club’s internal workings.
Kia Joorabchian was one of the agents Arsenal used in the Nicolas Pepe deal as well last summer and he has been a long-term associate of the club’s technical director, Edu.
Eyebrows were raised when David Luiz was offered an extension but perhaps more jarring was the fact Cedric Soares, 28, who had been prevented by injury from making his debut since joining on loan from Southampton, was signed up on a long term contract. His agent is Joorabchian as well.
Arsenal have also been linked with a move for Philippe Coutinho. There are no prizes for guessing who the Brazilian’s agent is.