Arsenal’s capture of Willian this summer looked like a shrewd piece of business. However, a series of poor displays and some even worse stats show why he’s nothing more than an expensive mistake. Connor Humm details his failings….
When Arsenal signed Willian from Chelsea, I genuinely thought we pulled a diamond out of the bag. A Brazilian international with Premier League and winning experience on a FREE transfer. Mr Edu Gaspar you have done a madness, that being the operative word it truly was that – but for all the wrong reasons.
Rewinding back to the beginning of the season when the Arsenal went to Craven Cottage and won 3-0 with our new signing at the heart of every single goal. We all thought, ‘wow! this guy is the bee’s knees, how have Chelsea let him go?’
Well now I am fully aware why, and I am sure every fan that watches us week in week out can see what I can. After that game I tweeted jokingly that Henrikh Mkhitaryan began his career at the club with three assists just like Willian and look how that turned out. Well, it turned out better than what the former Blues man is doing currently.
I know many Chelsea fans and they used to go insane watching him play and I would be watching the same match and at times I felt like I was watching a different game because he was not bad. On the contrary he was one of the most influential players on the pitch which makes his current form even more bemusing.
So, let’s look at the numbers. Since that blistering performance against Fulham, Willian has notched up an unimpressive one assist and zero goals in 25 appearances in all competitions. The Gunners are traditionally one of the Premier League’s most prolific goalscorers and to have a direct goal impact like this is nothing short of embarrassing for a bloke on a reported £200,000 a week.
Now goals and assists are not the be-all-and-end-all of football if you are doing everything else right. There was a consensus that Willian was preferred to Nicholas Pepe at the beginning of the season because of an apparent more ‘defensive mindset’ in his game that the Ivorian lacked.
Now I don’t doubt the club’s record signing has defensive lapses in his game. But I am yet to see Willian do the role any better after seeing him jog around the pitch against Leeds at the weekend for 30 minutes seemingly in his own little world.
Mikel Arteta said earlier in the season following a victory over Newcastle: “I think he was improving and improving. Today was the first time that he started the game. He [Willian] had some good moments and he had some other moments that he needed more help sometimes, and some decisions weren’t the best. But we’re going to keep trying with him.”
Following this statement by the boss he has continued to back the winger by playing him over and over to the surprise of the fan base. It makes it all the more galling given the response by Willian, which is non-existent.
Willian blocking the route of others
Now Willian drives me round the bend watching him but nothing he does when playing comes remotely close to my biggest gripe with all this. It is the fact that him being in that squad is taking an opportunity away from our youngsters.
Reiss Nelson cannot even get a sniff at the first-team right now, a player who put the champions to the sword at the Emirates last season.
Then there is Gabriel Martinelli who is arguably the most exciting prospect at the club along with Bukayo Saka right now. Even Jurgen Klopp can see the magic in the Brazilian!
Willian came on against Leeds with half an hour remaining at 4-0 up. You have a hungry 19-year-old on the bench itching to get a piece of the action’, but the manager has opted to bring on a 32-year-old washed-up winger instead. Now what does that do to the young player’s confidence? Nothing good that is for sure.
Due to coronavirus, clubs have a unique opportunity to bed young players into the foundations of their squad without the added pressure of a crowd on a matchday. We all know football fans can be brutal. One mistake and it could be career defining. Players have the freedom to express themselves without fans there to pressure them when it does not go to plan.
Arteta continues to support Willian
Arteta spoke before the Benfica fixture regarding the criticism of Willian. He said: “I don’t say it’s unfair. The expectations of Willy and the goals he can score, the assists he can create. It’s normal that people will write things about him. We have to protect him as much as we can.”
Even the manager can see there is a problem here so why do Arsenal continue to play him? It does not make one bit of sense. Two lessons I have learnt from the Willian to Arsenal transfer is that you can receive something for free and still get ripped off and most importantly, do not sign players from Chelsea…!
The Gunners host in-form Manchester City on Sunday and there may be another chance for Willian to start earning his keep. Somehow, I just can’t see this happening. And in the days where every penny counts at Arsenal, this one has to go down as one helluva expensive mistake!
By Connor Humm