Arsenal sign Chelsea winger Willian: How will the Brazilian fit into Mikel Arteta’s team

Arsenal have signed Chelsea winger Willian on a three-year-deal, which makes the 32-year-old Brazilian the Gunners’ first summer signing in what will be a busy transfer window for Mikel Arteta’s team.

According to ESPN, Willian has taken a pay cut and will earn £100,000 per week, not including bonuses, and the Brazilian says he is excited to get going with his new team. Speaking to Arsenal Digital, the Brazilian said: “I can’t wait to start training and playing with my team-mates, I’m very excited to become an Arsenal player.

“I decided [to join] because Arsenal is one of the biggest clubs in the world. I think this club deserves to shine again and I want to be a part of this project.”

Willian will wear the number 12 shirt at Arsenal, which was last taken by former right back Stephan Lichtsteiner, and the Brazilian’s new manager, Mikel Arteta, believes the winger can make a big difference for Arsenal going forward, and that he will bring more versatility to the Gunners’ attack.

Willian has played on the left and right wing for Chelsea throughout his time at the club, as well as in attacking midfield. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY GOAL.

Arteta told Arsenal Digital: “We have been monitoring him for the past few months, we had a clear intention to strengthen in the attacking midfielder and the winger positions [and] he is a player that gives us a lot of versatility, he can play in three or four different positions.”

What is interesting to note from Arteta’s quotes is the fact that he mentions the “attacking midfielder” role when referring to where Willian could play. With Mesut Ozil seemingly being forced out the club and youngster Emile Smith-Rowe not ready to start an entire season for Arsenal, it seems like the Spaniard might look to try the former Chelsea man in a more central role.

During his seven year spell in the Premier League at rivals Chelsea, Willian was mostly known for playing on the wing, contributing 63 goals and 62 assists in 339 games for the Blues. However, the Brazilian has played as an attacking midfielder before. 

Ranging from Corinthians to Chelsea, Willian has played centrally for every club he’s been at apart from Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. He has spent 106 matches out of his total 594 career games in central attacking midfield, scoring 30 goals and getting 21 assists, averaging a goal contribution roughly every two games.

However, the most useful stats when questioning how well he will do at Arsenal will come from the Brazilian’s time at Chelsea, and interestingly, Willian’s best numbers came from when he was playing in attacking midfield, not on the wings.

Willian joined Chelsea from Russian club Anzhi for £32m in the summer of 2013 after almost signing for rivals Tottenham Hotspurs, with the Brazilian even completing a medical at the North London club. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY THE EVENING STANDARD.

During Willian’s time with the Blues, he averaged 0.49 goal contributions per game when playing in central attacking midfield. However, when playing on the right and left wing, he only managed 0.32 and 0.39 respectively. If Willian can put in similar performances down the middle as he did with Chelsea, I think he could be an astute squad player for Arsenal.

These numbers will have almost certainly been assessed by Arteta and the Arsenal hierarchy before going ahead with the transfer. Given Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the only Arsenal player to get more goal contributions this season than Willian, the Brazilian will certainly add more goals to the Arsenal team, whether through scoring them himself or creating them.

Personally, my two main concerns about Willian’s possible transfer, which I mentioned in my last article on whether we should sign him or not, were his wages and if he would block the progress of our young wingers. However, given he has taken a pay cut and will be playing centrally judging off Arteta’s comments, I’m fairly happy about his signing. While I don’t expect him to start every game, I think he can certainly be a good squad player for Arsenal.

*all stats provided by transfermarkt

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