Chelsea have paid tribute to Willian following his exit, labelling the Brazilian “a class act” and “capable of the extraordinary” – now Arsenal are ready to offer him greater scope for his talents
Willian bid farewell to Chelsea at the weekend, as he prepares to move across London to join Arsenal.
The Brazilian midfielder, 32, is set to pen a £150k-a-week deal to join Mikel Arteta’s FA Cup winners following the end of his contract.
Willian, who joined Chelsea in 2013, called time on his Blues career after seven years.
In an emotional exit statement on Sunday, he reflected on his time at Stamford Bridge, labelling them “seven wonderful years”, adding: “Today I am certain that it was the best of decisions.”
He continued: “I leave with my head held high, safe in the knowledge that I won things here and always did my best in a Chelsea shirt!”
On Monday, Chelsea labelled him “a class act” and “capable of the extraordinary”.
But his departure comes after Blues bosses refused to sanction a three-year deal at the club, and Willian will now head to North London and the Emirates.
Despite offers from MLS and elsewhere in Europe, he is happy and settled in London and the Gunners are giving him what he was looking for: Three years and security.
Arsenal sporting director Edu and Raul Sanllehi both know his agent, Kia Joorabchian, particularly well, while Edu has previous with the player, from his time working with the Brazil national side.
Edu knows his character away from the game and is aware of Willian’s dedication to fitness and honing his craft.
He is also aware of his versatility and how the player 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, dovetailing with fellow Brazilian Jadson. Nominally, it would be from the left, but effectively that entire flank would be free for buccaneering fullback Razvan Rat.
And when Jadson, didn’t play, Willian would be the sole No.10.
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.
Arteta won the FA Cup playing in a pragmatic manner, adopting a 3-4-3 formation for defensive security.
But long-term he wants to be much more pro-active, and favours utilising a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation as he attempts to turn a side who finished eighth in the Premier League back into top four contenders and, ultimately, title challengers.
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