Chelsea have paid tribute to Willian following his exit, labeling the Brazilian “a class act” and “capable of the extraordinary” – now Arsenal are ready to offer him greater scope for his talents.
Arsenal sporting director Edu knows his character away from the game and is aware of the Brazilian midfielder’s dedication to fitness and honing his craft.
He is also aware of his versatility and how the 32-year-old has never truly believed his role at Chelsea, operating mostly from the right flank, was his best position.
When Willian initially arrived in Europe, at Shakhtar Donetsk, he often operated from a central area.
Now, more than a decade later, it is from the centre where Arsenal see his future again, reckoning he has been somewhat mislabelled in recent years.
Rather than a wide forward they see him as a midfielder, a creator, while it remains his preference to play in a central role, filling the half spaces and positions behind opposing midfielders, rather than out wide.
Asked about a lack of creativity in the build-up to the final league game vs Watford, Arteta said: “They don’t lie, those stats. When you relate that to Arsenal it’s not good enough.”
That is where Willian will help.
Now, he will be tasked with being the club’s creator in chief.
The preference is for him to be central, as a No.10 or potentially as one of two No.8s pushing on, using his ability in tight spaces.
His work ethic isn’t in question, and Arsenal believe that his running power, and ability to take an opponent out of the game, will help open up channels for those within the Gunners setup who do boast blistering pace and who they believe are more efficient finishers.
If 3-4-3 remains, then Willian operating from out-to-in, with a wing-back overlapping and Aubameyang playing centre-forward becomes an option.
However, the feeling among Arsenal’s powers-that-be is that now is the right time for him to transition, working openings for others, rather than being on the end of moves coming from wide.