In an eventful season for Arsenal (largely for the improper causes) few topics have animated the Gunners fan base fairly just like the signing (and the shape) of Willian. Signed from Chelsea on a free switch, handing a three-year contract to a 32-year previous whose agent occurs to have connections with the membership’s increased ups didn’t sit proper with the vast majority of Arsenal followers and that was earlier than he even kicked a ball.
Initially the size of the deal felt extra like a problem for the long run, whereas the ultimate 12 months of his contract was by no means prone to produce something near worth given his wage, the primary 12 months at the very least, ought to have seen an honest return for an skilled Premier League participant. The primary few months of the Brazilian’s tenure have been an unmitigated catastrophe and these had been speculated to be the sunlit uplands of the questionable contract he was awarded.
The participant has improved not too long ago however from an extremely low bar. There stays a notion that Willian is handled favourably by the coach in comparison with different gamers and there may be some reality to this. Firstly, the injury has been executed now in respect of the contract; Arsenal simply couldn’t afford one other Ozil sort situation the place an skilled and costly participant is being paid to not play.
Arteta had trigger to persevere with Willian for causes past his personal reputational injury. That useful resource is allotted now and Arteta shouldn’t be teaching Manchester Metropolis, he can not simply sit Willian within the reserves and spend tens of thousands and thousands on a shinier, newer toy. It is usually vital for the coach’s popularity too, nonetheless. He has to show that he can coach enchancment out of gamers if he’s to grasp his personal potential as an bold younger supervisor.
We’re instructed that Willian’s mid-pandemic “enterprise journey” to Dubai was handled internally so it’s tough to know whether or not he was handled favourably for that act of indiscipline. Finally, Willian’s type and confidence grew to become so unhealthy that even Arteta had no choice however to cease selecting him. The Brazilian didn’t begin a Premier League recreation for 2 and a half months till he was chosen in opposition to Burnley final weekend.
He has received his place again within the facet based mostly on some meagre showings, on the face of it. Arteta was eager to speak up his influence from the bench in opposition to Benfica, when Willian was known as for forward of Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli. His help for Kieran Tierney was not precisely a surgical supply that cleaved Benfica’s packed defence aside.
Nonetheless, post-game, Arteta was effusive concerning the participant’s influence. “Willian particularly, I feel he modified the sport. He gave us way more composure in moments, produced some creativity, produced the purpose for Kieran and we’d like all people on board.” It learn as an over inflated tribute however there may be some advantage in making an attempt to rebuild the boldness of a broken participant. The coach had beforehand stated the criticism of the participant was “not unfair,” in spite of everything.
It’s nonetheless honest to say that Willian has to do far much less to impress the coach than Pepe or Gabriel Martinelli do, for example- however there are causes for that past favouritism. Properly, it’s a favouritism of kinds, the easy reality is that Arteta prefers Willian’s qualities to these of his extra unpredictable, but extra prolific attackers.
Willian supplied one other help for Aubameyang at Turf Moor on Saturday. As assists go, it was little extra spectacular than the 5 yard sideways shuffle to Tierney in opposition to Benfica. Nonetheless, it’s not the standard of the go that the coach is occupied with, it’s the place Willian performs it from. In brief, he conforms to the supervisor’s concept of strictly choreographed sample play in assault. (His help for David Luiz at Leicester, from a fastidiously constructed setpiece routine, is a pleasant illustration of this).
In opposition to Burnley, Arteta requested Willian to tuck inside and play a twin no.10 function alongside Odegaard, giving Tierney the liberty to overlap him on the skin. It’s honest to say that Pepe and Martinelli aren’t tailor made for this function. When Willian receives the go from Partey, the run and subsequent go to Aubameyang are easy and, in Arteta’s case, that’s as a result of Willian is standing precisely the place Arteta needed him to face.
That transfer could have been rehearsed on the coaching floor. Willian has performed underneath the likes of Jose Mourinho, Tite and Maurizio Sarri and has been vastly appreciated by all of them due partially to his potential to comply with instruction. The one coach he has notably fallen out with is Antonio Conte and that is largely as a result of Conte’s 352 formation and deployment of wing-backs creates redundancy for a winger like Willian.
For Chelsea, Willian supplied a technical counterbalance to Eden Hazard on the alternative flank. The Brazilian supplied construction and technical safety whereas Hazard had freedom to float and dribble. Willian provided a really related service for Brazil, the place he performed on the alternative flank to Neymar and supplied house for Dani Alves to overlap him.
In brief, Willian has by no means been a star in his personal proper; his function has at all times been to make the crew’s stars shine extra brightly. On the face of it, with some mixture of Tierney, Saka, Martinelli or Aubameyang on the left, you’ll be able to see the rationale for Arteta craving a extra predictable presence on the precise flank. That’s the place Willian performed for almost all of the opening weeks of his Arsenal profession.
The issue is that’s completely didn’t work, he didn’t make the crew’s stars shine any extra brightly and, if something, we got here to a stage the place he achieved the alternative. Not too long ago he has moved to the left flank as Arteta continues to tinker together with his assault. The ceiling is decrease for Willian than it’s for Pepe and Martinelli as a result of the coach craves technical safety and sample play in assault.
Pepe and Martinelli are each extra instinctive and fewer tactically groomed. Nonetheless, they’re additionally extra prone to rating a purpose and that sums up Arteta’s dilemma in a nutshell. Arsenal are dominating opponents much better than they had been and that is, partially, as a result of their improved sample play in assault aided and abetted by a correct quantity 10 in Smith-Rowe or Odegaard.
The problem is that they don’t convert that dominance into objectives. Willian has not scored for Arsenal but and has scarcely even come shut and Lacazette hasn’t taken a shot in 271 minutes on the time of writing. Pepe or Martinelli are way more prone to produce particular person moments of inspiration (or perspiration in Martinelli’s case) however many a patterned play will die at their toes.
The crew remains to be overly reliant on Aubameyang for objectives. Saka is stepping as much as the plate however given Arsenal’s 4 central midfielders (Xhaka, Ceballos, Elneny and Partey) have a grand complete of 1 Premier League purpose between them this season, Arsenal want multiple and a half forwards able to troubling the onion bag (assuming that Aubameyang and Lacazette is now a binary choice).
This won’t be a problem that may be solved within the quick time period both. Willian, Aubameyang, Pepe, Saka and Martinelli are all on long-term contracts and even when Lacazette is offered and changed by one other striker, you’d think about this thriller centre-forward is not going to function in tandem with Aubameyang.
You might, after all, put Auba again on the left however that isn’t actually going that will help you to construct assaults and maintain stress both. Ultimately, Arteta may need to teach Willian to supply extra end-product (which appears unlikely provided that he’s approaching 33) or else coach Pepe and Martinelli to evolve to his imaginative and prescient for rigidly structured assault with out dropping their mojo (there are some encouraging indicators in that respect with Nicolas Pepe). In the meanwhile, the coach has to decide on between a sequence of extra binary choices.