Arsenal’s signing of Willian is borne from the same thinking behind the move to sign David Luiz from Chelsea a year ago, believes Julien Laurens, who has noticed a distinct change of strategy at the club compared to Arsene Wenger’s time in charge.
Willian turns 32 years old tomorrow but is believed to have agreed terms with the Gunners to put pen to paper on a three-year deal at the Emirates.
Reports have suggested the Brazil international will earn £100,000 in basic wages but that his salary could be increased through bonuses.
The Chelsea winger is quitting Stamford Bridge with the Blues having refused to hand him a deal any longer than two years due to his age.
South American Willian will become the second player to swap Chelsea for Arsenal in a little over 12 months after Luiz moved from west London to north London last summer.
The centre-back was a contentious player in his first campaign at the club, giving away a new Premier League record of five penalties in a single season but also contributing some important displays at the back.
Luiz’s biggest contribution, however, was the experience that he added to a largely youthful line-up who before the FA Cup triumph this month had not tasted much major success.
And Laurens thinks that despite Willian’s talents – having managed nine goals and seven assists in 36 Premier League games in 2019-20 – that his sheer experience may be a factor in his arrival.
Arsenal do not necessarily need the forward with all of their other talent in the final third, although his versatility makes him a valuable option and he could play on either flank or as a No 10 under Mikel Arteta.
The European football expert also noted that the arrivals of Luiz and Willian, combined with Arsenal’s desire to tie 31-year-old striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to a new three-year deal, is a dramatic change from the way the club was run during Wenger’s 22-year tenure as manager.
« I believe the Willian deal is pretty much done, » Laurens told ESPN’s Gab and Juls Podcast. « Three years.
« It’s a good debate, he turns 32 later this month, is it too long of a deal?
« Let’s not forget there was a time Arsene Wenger when was there that he would only give a one-year deal to the over-30s and now you give three years to a 32-year-old, three years to Aubameyang, who is 31.
« I think the influence that David Luiz has had on the younger players in that dressing room is very important. Maybe they think Willian will be the same.
« But what you did with Luiz was you gave him a one-plus-one deal, which I thought was the right thing to do at the time last summer.
« I don’t think Willian is even a a two-plus-one, so you had one way of doing things with the older players then you change completely to give contracts to somebody who is 32. Let’s hope it works for them. »
Former Arsenal midfielder Perry Groves believes Willian is a better option for Arteta than club-record signing Nicolas Pepe.
The Ivorian, signed from Lille for £72million, recorded eight goals and 10 assists in his first season in north London.
“You say he’s 31, in our day you were probably coming to the end of your career at 30, 31 as an outfield player.
“And if you look at his injury record, over the last seven years he’s averaged 33 or 34 games a season, so he’s not injury prone, he’s consistent, he’s got a winning mentality, he will buy into the way that Arteta wants to play, his attitude is good, he plays in the Premier League, so the risk is low and reward is very, very high.
“Is he better than what Arsenal have got at the moment? I’d say yes. He’s experienced.
“Yeah [Willian is better than Pepe]. Yes [Pepe has got great potential] but he’s not on Willian’s level of consistently delivering, he’s had his best goalscoring year.
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