Arsenal’s pursuit of Willian has been a hot topic amongst the fanbase in recent weeks, with various reports claiming that the deal is nearly complete. Due to his age and concerns that he may be past his peak, not to mention his affiliation with Chelsea FC, many fans are somewhat dissatisfied with this piece of business despite the player being a free agent.
So why do Arsenal want to sign him?
First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that Arsenal as a club and Arteta as their coach, have different reasons for wanting the same thing here. Arsenal appear to be moving in a controversial, agent led recruitment system. Raul Sanllehi, Arsenal’s Head of Football Operations has a close working relationship with Kia Joorabchian – the sole director of the football investment group Sports Invest UK Ltd.
Joorabichan is the only active officer working under the Sports Invest UK LTD, meaning that he is effectively able to work as a “super agent”. Willian is represented by Sports Invest UK, meaning that the close relationship between Raul Sanillehi and Kia Joorabichian is likely playing a big role in this deal. Consider that Arsenal have been linked with Phillipe Coutinho who is also represented by Joorabichian and that working relationship appears to be playing a major role in Arsenal’s transfer business this window,
That said, Arteta is also reportedly keen on Willian, so what football reasons are there to sign Willian?
The main reason is clear. Arsenal are dearly lacking in creativity, with Arteta opting against using Mesut Ozil’s qualities. Dani Ceballos looks a somewhat good creative player for Arsenal – although recent reports do suggest Real Madrid won’t allow Arsenal to sign him permanently. Arsenal would need more than Ceballos to solve Arsenal’s creative problems going forward though, and Willian does have an eye for a chance creating pass.
He has other qualities too. His crossing is significantly better than most of Arsenal’s current attacking players, his set piece delivery is usually top notch and he is one of those players who rarely has a bad game.
The main question is then, where does he play?
Well he’s unlikely to feature on the right, as Nicolas Pépé has made that position his own. He’s also unlikely to appear on the left unless Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang starts playing as the #9 for Arsenal – which would only likely happen consistently if Alexandre Lacazette is sold this summer. This means that unless Willian is going to play in the #10 role – which also seems unlikely considering he’s rarely been used there in recent years, he’s probably being signed as a rotation option for the aforementioned Pépé and Aubameyang.
If this turns out to be the case, Arsenal fans will either be pleased that the club aren’t relying on older players to push them to the next level – or annoyed that they aren’t focusing their efforts on landing younger players who can help the club in the short and long term. Either way, hopefully Willian proves to be a success for Arsenal.
If he signs…
Photo: Aleksandr Osipov (2015)