Willian had also been linked with Barcelona and Inter Miami
Last Updated: 14/08/20 10:07am
Arsenal have bolstered their attacking options for next season by signing Brazil international Willian on a three-year deal following his departure from Chelsea.
Willian’s contract with Chelsea expired after their Champions League tie with Bayern Munich and Arsenal have beaten off competition from Barcelona and Inter Miami to sign the 32-year-old.
Willian made 47 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions last season and finished in fine form, with four Premier League goals after the restart taking his tally for the season to nine.
More to follow …
Sky Sports’ Alan Smith:
It is time to move the project forward by adding quality in certain positions, which is not easy at all when money is tight. Willian’s free transfer from Chelsea looks like the first step, which surprised me at first given the Brazilian’s age. Just turned 32 with lots of miles on the clock, Stamford Bridge has surely seen his best days.
So was this just a convenient move because he has the right agent? Something foisted upon Arteta by Raul Sanllehi, the head of football? Or does Arteta see something in Willian that can improve the team straight away?
One thing is for sure, as a right-sided attacker, his arrival asks immediate questions of Nicolas Pepe, signed at exorbitant cost this time last year. The Ivory Coast winger has blown hot and cold so far, which is not a great quality in Arteta’s book. Undoubtedly talented, Pepe has got to kick on if he’s going to survive because, in the short term at least, Willian can provide great know-how and quality on that right side.
Analysis: What’s Arsenal’s plan of attack with Willian?
Sky Sports’ Pete Gill:
When discussing the impending arrival of Willian, a recent edition of the Transfer Talk podcast starkly asked the question of Arsenal: is this method or madness?
On the face of it, signing Willian is certainly a little unusual. Are Arsenal really looking at another short-term fix? Are they really planning for the new season with a front three of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Willian with Pepe and Bukayo Saka in reserve? Or could, as some reports suggest, the plan be for Willian to occupy a central, playmaker role while Mesut Ozil remains frozen out?
Trying to fathom Arsenal’s intentions around this deal is as intriguing as their willingness to offer Willian a three-year deal when Chelsea are understood to have drawn the line at two.
Given that Aubameyang is expected to sign a new deal, Willian’s arrival must strengthen the possibility that Lacazette will depart. Although he started the FA Cup final, Lacazette was regularly overlooked in favour of Eddie Nketiah in the second half of the season and had, by his standards, a modest campaign. His departure would not only raise funds, but would surely pave the way for Aubameyang, the league’s most clinical finisher, to move back to the centre from the wide-left position he occupied for much of 2019/20. If, in turn, the Lacazette funds would be used to land Thomas Partey and a defender or two, there really might be some method behind Arsenal’s current manoeuvrings.
In the meantime, the guessing game can continue as to which Arsenal forward his arrival will impact the most: Aubameyang, Lacazette, Ozil or Pepe?