After focus returned to football with the restart of the 2019/20 season in June, attention has once again switched to transfers at Arsenal with links between the club and Willian reemerging.
Reports from ESPN claiming that the Brazilian rejected a new two-year deal at Chelsea have been followed by reports from The Telegraph that the Gunners will hold talks over a free transfer when the Blues season ends. They still have the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final to play against Bayern Munich.
While the main thrust behind the move is the 31-year-old’s [32 on August 9] experience, having won five major trophies with Chelsea [two Premier Leagues], that alone should not satisfy Mikel Arteta, Raul Sanllehi or fans that Willian is the answer to the current problems at the club.
Of course, experience won’t be the only factor at play as Willian would bring a somewhat consistent performance level which saw him excel under Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard after his fall out with Antonio Conte.
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Under Sarri, he was a key part of their Europa League campaign – which may attract Arteta more – ending the 2018/19 season as the competitions top assister [seven], while this season saw his post-lockdown form helped the Blues secure Champions League football for next season, so he would bring value to the side, but the big question is whether Arsenal truly need the Brazilian?
Assessing the rebuilding job Arteta is currently undertaking, a key aspect of the improvements made as been the dual-responsibilities of his senior players, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and David Luiz in particular. Both evolved in their roles on the pitch [Aubameyang defensively and aerially, Luiz defensively and in regard to building play] but the pair were instrumental to guiding the youngsters in the squad through a difficult season.
Both Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka have publicly admitted that Luiz has been key to their development this season while Aubameyang keeping his finger on the pulse of the youthful squad has been more overt.
The importance of having these senior members of the side is clear but Aubameyang and Luiz are not the only players who fit the bill. “I think we have some really good core players.” Arteta said when asked whether Arsenal have enough of these players ahead of the FA Cup final, and from the current squad, Alexandre Lacazette, Hector Bellerin and Granit Xhaka also fit into this mould.
Another ‘mentor-like’ figure on top of these may not be bad but them comes the question of where he’d fit in the side and whether his presence would have any ramifications?
Currently, Arsenal have seven players who cover the three positions Willian covers [Aubameyang, Martinelli Reiss Nelson, Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka, Mesut Ozil and Emile Smith Rowe]. Aubameyang and Pepe are…