Arsenal have confirmed the signing of Willian on a three-year contract, the Brazilian completing his long-anticipated move within five days of ending his spell at Chelsea.
Willian’s arrival at the Emirates had been an open secret for some time and, after Arsenal defeated his previous employers in the FA Cup final on 1 August, the only question was how long it would take to complete the deal. The 32-year-old adds experience across Mikel Arteta’s attacking midfield positions and may well spend much of his time in a central role.
“I believe he’s a player that can really make a difference for us,” Arteta said. “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. He is a player that gives us a lot of versatility, he can play in three of four different positions.
“He has the experience of everything in the football world, but to still have the ambition to come here and contribute to bring the club where it belongs. I have been really impressed with all the talks I have had with him and how much he wanted to come.”
Speaking to the club’s official website, Willian outlined Arteta’s influence in attracting him to Arsenal. “[I like] the way they play, everything is amazing – the stadium, and I think that with Arteta, Arsenal have a great opportunity to fight again for titles in the Premier League and in Europe so I’m very happy because of that,” he said. “I’m excited to start. I can’t wait to go on the pitch and do my thing to help my team-mates and to help this club to shine again. That’s what I want.”
Willian’s deal is expected to secure him comfortably more than the £120,000 a week he earned at Chelsea when bonuses and other incentives are included. Such figures may stick in the throat given Arsenal announced 55 redundancies in non-playing areas of the club last week. The footballing case, though, is that the Brazil international – who won two Premier League titles during a successful seven years at Chelsea – will offer polish and incision to a team that struggled for creativity throughout last season.
The length of the deal offered to Willian, whose agent Kia Joorabchian also represents David Luiz and Cedric Soares, may also raise eyebrows. It will expire when he is almost 35 but Arteta also believes he can help improve players like Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson, who both operate largely out wide. The hope is that Willian, a hugely popular figure at Stamford Bridge, will have the same impact on the club’s youngsters that David Luiz has exerted since making a similar move last year.
Chelsea had hoped to keep Willian but were not prepared to offer a contract of similar duration and he turned down their most recent proposal. He also received interest from abroad but was keen to remain in London, with Tottenham also linked earlier in the summer.”
Arsenal expect to confirm another big-money contract soon, with the captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang likely to sign a new deal in time for next season. They will also be active in what promises to be a frantic transfer market until the window closes in October. A defender, a central midfielder and another forward are all in Arteta’s sights and, with a bulging wage bill, departures of several peripheral players are inevitable to fund help such moves.