Willian to take center stage at Arsenal with new role set under Mikel Arteta


Willian bade Chelsea farewell at the weekend, as he prepares to travel through London to join Arsenal.The 32-year-old Brazilian midfielder is set to sign a £ 150,000-a-week deal to join FA Cup winners Mikel Arteta after his contract ends.

Willian, who joined Chelsea in 2013, ended his Blues career after seven years.

In a touching exit statement on Sunday, he reflected on his time at Stamford Bridge, calling them “seven wonderful years,” adding: “Today I’m sure it was the best decision.”

He continued: “I’m leaving with my head held high, knowing that I’ve won things here and that I’ve always done my best with a Chelsea shirt! ”

On Monday, Chelsea called him a “class act” and “capable of the extraordinary”.

Willian said goodbye to Chelsea

But his departure comes after Blues bosses refused to sanction a three-year deal at the club, and Willian will now travel to north London and the Emirates.

Despite offers from MLS and elsewhere in Europe, he’s happy and settled in London and the Gunners give him what he’s been looking for: three years and safety.

Arsenal sporting director Edu and Raul Sanllehi both know his agent Kia Joorabchian particularly well, while Edu has worked with the player before, since his time working for the Brazilian national team.

Edu knows his character far from the game and is aware of Willian’s dedication to fitness and honing his craft.

He is also aware of his versatility and the fact that the player never really believed his role at Chelsea, operating mostly from the right flank, was his best position.

Willian in action against Aston Villa

When Willian first arrived in Europe, in Shakhtar Donetsk, he often operated from a central area, teaming up with fellow Brazilian Jadson. Nominally, it would be from the left, but indeed that entire flank would be free for rear filibuster Razvan Rat.

And when Jadson wasn’t playing, Willian would be the only No.10.

Now, more than a decade later, it is from the center where Arsenal see their future again, feeling they have been somewhat mislabeled in recent years.

Rather than a wide striker, they see him as a midfielder, a creator, while his preference remains to play in a central role, filling in half-spaces and positions behind opposing midfielders, rather than outside.

Arteta won the FA Cup playing pragmatically, adopting a 3-4-3 formation for defensive security.

But in the long run he wants to be much more proactive and prefers to use a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation as he tries to bring a side that has finished eighth in the Premier League into the top four. . contenders and, ultimately, title challengers.

Mikel Arteta and Edu agree on Willian’s future role

The Spaniard is also aware of the need to add more craftsmanship and create more chances – Mesut Ozil ended the season as the team’s main chance creator in the Premier League, although he did only played 18 times.

Asked about the lack of creativity in the preparation for the last league game against Watford, Arteta said: “They don’t lie, these statistics. When you make the connection with Arsenal, it’s not good enough. ”

This is where Willian will help, with Arsenal believing that a player who has never hit double the numbers in the Premier League – despite having hit double the numbers in four of the last five seasons in all competitions – is a much greater facilitator of opportunities for others. than a taker of them himself.

In his nearly 15-year career, these four occasions are the only times he has exceeded the 10-goal mark.

Willian’s heat map of his last Chelsea campaign shows how the right wing became his domain

A move to Arsenal will see him reconnect with David Luiz

From now on, he will be responsible for being the chief creator of the club.

The preference is for him to be central, as No.10 or potentially as one of the two No.8s to push, using his ability in tight spaces.

His work ethic is not in question, and Arsenal believe his racing power and ability to take an opponent out of play will help open up channels for those of the Gunners’ setup who boast of a blazing pace and who ‘they believe to be more. efficient pavers.

The hope is that record signing Nicolas Pepe will continue to grow on the right – at £ 72million he won’t move anywhere other than where he’s most comfortable – that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang re -signs, that Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka continue to develop and that Willian can help make one more out of it.

If 3-4-3 remains, then Willian operating from the outside to the inside, with an overlapping full-back and Aubameyang playing the center-forward becomes an option, and that’s something he is used to having regularly in such a position at Chelsea. .

However, the feeling among Arsenal’s powers is that now is the time for him to make the transition, making the most of his creative ability in pockets and working openings for others, rather than being in. the end of movements coming from wide.

Arteta has made his desire for new midfield options clear, particularly with Matteo Guendouzi on sale, Ozil not in his plans, Lucas Torreira potentially out and Dani Ceballos return unsecured.

This is exactly what Willian is doing and is now set to take center stage in the next phase of Arsenal’s rebuilding of Arteta.

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