The potentially signing of Willian from Chelsea has predictably been mate by plenty of grumbles from Arsenal fans.
Signing a soon-to-be 32-year-old that a rival was “happy” to let the contract run down for will raise some questions. Especially when his agent is a certain Kia Joorabchian. Especially after the experience of Mikel Silvestre and David Luiz.
Signing Willian would be seen by many as Arsenal once again putting money into Joorabchian’s pocket.
It would be seen as Arsenal going for a cheap option that is actually expensive due to salary and signing on fees.
It would be seen as Arsenal signing an ageing player, past his peak, rather than focusing on younger, hungrier talents.
And all those opinions are valid.
But Willian would actually be a sensible signing for Arsenal, if it is taken as part of the bigger picture.
Whilst Arsenal won the FA Cup played 343, the feeling by many is that his preferred formation is 433, with 3 central midfielders providing the defensive cover for the defence.
Lining up 433 would leave no place for a Mesut Ozil-esque Number 10. It would see a midfield 3 like Liverpool’s.
Hard working, more defensive minded, but can create.
It would require Arsenal securing Dani Ceballos for another year, and buying one more to add to Granit Xhaka.
We have been heavily linked with Thomas Partey and Donny van de Beek.
Playing 433 would mean we would only need a part-time Number 10. Someone who is happy sitting on the bench. Potentially also covering left or right wing. Someone who we can turn to allowing us to transition from 433 into 4231 or 4213 when chasing the game.
Willian can be this option.
With Willian on the bench, you have 3 substitution options with just one player.
He can come in and play 10, as the team shifts from 433 to 4231. He can also cover both wings.
So if Arsenal shift to 433 next season and buy a top class central midfielder, Willian becomes a sensible signing as the more attacking option.
If Arteta chooses to go for 4231, signing Willian makes a lot of sense if we also bring in a younger creative midfielder.
Arsenal might be looking across Europe at the likes of Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Salzburg or Saïd Benrahma at Brentford.
The issue with signing these two players is they would be coming from Austria or the Championship. The step up to the Premier League is huge.
So it would make sense if Arsenal signed, for example, 19-year-old Szoboszlai as a long term option whilst also adding a senior option to take the pressure off.
Willian could be that senior option.
Willian’s high wage would be offset by the youngsters much lower wage and the club could do the maths and end up paying less for Willian and the new creator than what Ozil & Mkhitaryan were costing. Even if we have to continue paying some of Ozil’s wages to move him on.
In this scenario, Willian also provides a duel role.
Alongside providing experienced cover and guidance to a less experienced “10” he also provides experienced cover to Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.
So we have young, hungry, talented teenage attackers and Willian as an experienced, reliable head.
Willian turns 32-years-old in a few days, but has just had his most prolific season in the Premier League – scoring 9 and assisting 7. He started 29 games.
He is certainly not yet a player on the slide.
As always, it comes down to money.
Should we pay Willian a £200k a week for 4-years? No.
Would he accept just a 2 year deal? No. He has already turned that down for Chelsea.
So something in between needs to be found. Maybe a 2+1 or 3+1 deal
Willian becomes a sensible signing if him joining allows the club to rebuild the rest of the squad in the eye of Mikel Arteta.
If he is the only “big name signing” Arsenal make this summer, fans will be on his back from day one.