Do fans agree with Arteta that Willian can play centre-forward?

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta opted to play Willian as a centre-forward against Manchester City this weekend, but did fans think it worked out?

As far as I can recall, the Brazilian has never been fielded in the role from his time at Chelsea, nor for Brazil, but our manager made the shock decision to throw him into the role at the weekend.

The performance has raised mixed reviews, with a number of comments on this Just Arsenal page criticising the decision, while the manager himself claims that he was happy, and hinting that he will play in the role again in the near future.

‘We need to have the versatility to play in different formations, occupying different spaces,’ Arteta said after the match (via the Metro).

‘I believe it was a game for him, the way City play, the way they attract opponents and the spaces that can be used.

‘He was really convinced as well. It was obviously really hard to leave two strikers on the bench but it was a tactical decision.’

Asked if he was happy with Willian’s display, Arteta continued: ‘Yes, in some moments better than others.

‘But I think he will grow and understand better that position as we use him in other occasions, maybe surround him with other players as well.

‘But I’m happy with the game he had.’

I’m not sure it was the best performance from Willian, although making the decision to try this new role out away at Manchester City was always going to cause a stir, be it good or bad.

I can’t say I was happy with the way things panned out, but had we avoided defeat like we deserved to do, this could have been a different conversation.

I know some of you disliked Willian in the role on Saturday, but can you see it working it out in other matches this season?


Tags Willian


  1. why?
    i have observed always arsenal players make more jokes than the other teams in training
    then they try to be serious in real match while the opponent teams become more serious than them.

  2. Why did he have play Willian as a centre-forward ? Just don’t get it.
    Lacazette @ Nketiah on bench couldn’t have thought much.

    I Know he likes playing around with tactics but sometimes it gets a bit much for the players swapping and changing.

  3. It didn’t work in city game, it might work out some other time, who knows. MA is always with them and know them better, lacazet has been disappointing, Nketia not ready, AUBA can’t hold up in the middle

    1. Laca has scored the most goals for us so far this season! Nketia may not be ready for constant starts but can definitely press the opposition defence! Auba can’t hold up play but he’s better at CF than on the wing! I’m not a coach so I don’t know what MA was trying to do with an ageing Willian but whatever it was, it didn’t work and Willian certainly was the wrong option for it as he wasn’t effective in any way and it should not be tried again please.. at least not with Willian. Nonetheless, we should support the coach and the team even when we don’t agree with them. COYG!!!

      1. I would to your comment, that we have had a hard start to the season playing 2 of the best teams in the league ,I feel when when we get going we will see a different approach .
        Hopefully get a few wins now under the belt and get the confidence up

          1. The fact that we forced pep and city into tactical edge, shows city took the game seriously, not like their usually high pressure, the had to sit back, played 3cb at some point in 2nd half.
            Though we got nothing from the game, but we made city work for the 3point not the usual walkover game

  4. Willian is no centre forward. His crossing of a ball is better than some, but if he is going to play, he should be on the right with Pepe more in the centre

  5. Whether Willian can or can’t isn’t the issue, WHY Willian played as CF is the issue in my opinion. If Arteta wanted to utilize a CF he has 2 on the bench, why even play Willian?
    The City defenders didn’t mark him and open up channels for Auba if that is what Arteta was thinking would happen.
    To answer the question, No it most certainly did not work. No one scored, we only created 2 chances I believe, and we never confused or disrupted their central defenders in any way.
    Analysis paralysis I would call it.

  6. At this stage, Willian is good for one role and one role only. 15 to 20 minutes relief at the end of the match. He showed again and again that he does not have the stamina to last regardless where he played. Even at the end of his career at Chelsea, he rarely played the full 90 minutes.

    1. His career is a bunch of purple patches. When he isn’t in the mood, then he is a very ineffective player. We’ll see him in form a couple times this season and then be scratching our head at other times. Not sure he is a player who should be a consistent starter either. As much as I critique Pepe he still adds more to our forward play than Willian does who is almost anonymous.

      1. Well put RSH could not put it better. What Arsenal fans do not realise is Willian has never been prolific. His best season yeilded 8 assist and 9 goals I think, how can he perform better then this when he is in twilight of his career?. He is not a kind of player who can hold up the ball, draw fouls, has quick feet and wide passing range. Simply put he is a work horse (Millenar) type player who is a winger. He does not posses the ability and skill set to play anywhere else. Fans need to wake up and realise we did not sign hazard we signed an old Willian. Every time I see the expectations and assumptions made about Willian it feels like some of the fans are putting him on same level of Ronaldo & Messi.

        1. Well said…its not the fans that need to wake up n realise that…its MIKEL ARTETA…firstly..u don’t try tactics when playing against a big club…u try it when playing with lower clubs….at times MIKEL ARTETA is trying to be too smart or he’s trying to make a name or thinking he can outclassed his master…he took it lightly when city players were announced.cos they are not full team…many make up players….he has to remember that he is a young coach n still has a long way to go…so at times he has to go back to basic before he start to make changes in the squad….from there then he can start to see formation or players play better…might as well get Leno to be CF….

  7. People always mistake constructive criticism.

    The lineup that Arteta fielded was good and very close to our strongest 11.

    However, the system is still very poor and cannot allow our big guns to thrive.

    Example is that Willian incident, instructed to play central, while Auba is on the wing; it’s just crazy!!!!

    Also our defenders especially Gabriel are all of a sudden very indecisive in their passing, often waiting for long to give a simple pass. Now for someone who came with the best record for forward passes in the French league, this must just be a manager’s directive. Very very annoying!!!!

    The 3-4-3 generally is a more counter-attacking formation, not possession based.
    But even then, our players don’t seem to be close to opposition players, they don’t make any tackles and chase balls half-heartedly which is also very annoying!!!

    1. The players are confused. They are taken out of their comfort zone. Maybe because they don’t fully understand the system or because there is no system at all. In the past we use to see managers play to the best ability of their players. That’s why Emery failed both at PSG and Arsenal. Let’s see if MA makes a go of it.

  8. I get the feeling that the “Arteta Way” is going to appear chaotic to most of us who are used to a more traditional system that puts playing positions and formations in tidy boxes for us to understand.

    Will it work? Who knows but I’m up to be taken along on the ride.

  9. I feel that he is going around like Emery changing squads and tactics, I don’t know why but we he is going like this, sometimes I miss Wenger stubbornness of playing the same 11 and for that 11 I mean this on:
    Niles…Xhak….Elne or Ceba…Bell
    AMN Better at one on one
    Auba benefits a lot with the runs Niles and Tierney make. Laca helps with keeping of possesion, Saka playing iin the final third to score or assist, but Arteta switch tactics so badly.

    1. Elneny Bellerin and Holding seemed to start an understanding between them but there is no continuity

  10. It didn’t work and I’m not quite sure what the plan was with this tactic. It’s strange that we are suffering a CF problem when Laca DOES have three goals already, but it’s still clear that there is not fluidity to our attack. I would try pushing Saka into the front three. He’s the only player sucessesfuly taking on defenses right now and giving side something to think about.

    1. we arent suffering a CF problem we have Eddie !! The only problem there is and maybe Arteta is seeing it Laca doesnt play as a striker he drops so deep he might as well play midfield. he cannot score and is no real threat at all !! Teams look at the team sheet when he starts and think well nothing to worry about Laca is starting !! Watch games and tell me Laca doesnt play deep and might as well be a midfielder !! When he came on against City he played so deep that even if we tried to counter he would have been late into the box as he plays 20 yrds behind pepe and Auba !! the guy for me is a joke !! Eddie should be starting every game and on his recent form defo a starter but personally i would start Auba every game as the striker through the middle he has pace he sees passes and defenders would fear him !! read my comment and see what i say and why and you will see this 3 4 3 formation is killing us and why we need to change it to 4 3 3 !!

      1. Maybe you haven’t notice that Laca is to drop to the middle to retain possesion? the problem is the constant change in line up and tactics,

        Auba. Laca. Saka.
        AMN. Xhaka. Elneny. Bell.
        Tier. Gabs. Hold.

        That was working for us,

        Amn and Tierney ar essential for the role Auba plays in the wing. Needs those runs to find space and shoot, Saka in midfield Works as he is class but as one o the 3 forwards he is more effective,

      2. The guy to you is a joke.!! Have you ever considered he is instructed to play that way. He certainly didn’t play like under Wenger. The issue here is Arteta has someone stated is doing everything Emery did. He is just communicating better. There is more to our team than what they are giving on match day. The only way to play a match and win to play to out score your opponent by playing attacking football. Every other team is doing besides us an Chelsea. When you create many chances you are bound to score one or two goals. I don’t care if we lose or draw I just want us to play like we want to win. Fans should look at Westham yesterday with 3 goals down. If it is us it is game over because we will be passing to Leno. That is what is wrong in the way we play.

  11. It’s a big fat NO from me. Lacca, Nketiah, Auba, Pepe in that order for me. Willian isn’t a no9 and never will be.

  12. Bring Lacazette to 10 position and let the Coach from training get Willian a position that he brought him for. Nketiah is there. Why do you bring Willian to Centre Forward. That will be
    Causing confusion in the team
    Xhaka was tired from his International duties. So Thomas started he should have stopped Sterling as Diffensive Central midfielder .

  13. Maybe Willian is just having the “settling in period” not working out as soon as we would all like? MA could also be concerned about his fitness? It may just take few more weeks before we begin to see his true position and form.

  14. Why bother with the false 9 when we have proper centre forwards? Aubamayang, Nketiah, Lacazette, Balogun, etc…..

  15. That has to be the most stupid thing i have ever seen a manager do ! Willian upfront was a total joke and what sort of message does that send to Eddie and Laca ? and sticking with this 3 4 3 even though we have to players now to play 4 3 3 is senseless. Ok i understand we had to tighten up after Emery but now its suffocating us like having a straight jacket on. We have 2 full backs in Bellerin and Tierney we have center back’s in Gabriel Luiz Holding Mustafi. We have defensive midfielders in Xhaka, Elneny and a box to box come defensive midfielder in Partey and we have play makers ceballos Smith -Rowe Willock and dare i say it Ozil we have wingers in Pepe Willian Nelson Saka and a utility player in Maitland Niles. and we stick with 3 4 3 playing Tierney out of position as center back bellerin and saka as wing backs persist in playing our best striker Auba out wide??? come on it doesnt take Einstein to work out what is going wrong… Arteta seems to be stuck in a rut, he hasnt got the balls to snap out of the defensive game he has installed !! Loses against Liverpool and City proves me right both games were there for the winning but both times he stuck to the defensive 3 4 3 plan… the games against West Ham and Sheffield Utd we only scrapped through to get the points and the West Ham game in all honesty we were second best all game bar some massive luck !! If this is the style of football Arteta thinks will get Arsenal back in the Top 6 let alone 4 then he is deluded !!

  16. Why people don’t understand simple human tendencies ?
    Willian is looking for retirement. He has come to a retirement home.
    Auba is now ozil part 2. He just signed a lucrative contract. He can now relax and be comfortable for next four years.

  17. The thing with this experiment is that if it worked and we won the game we would all be saying it was a masterful tactic by Arteta, however I have never seen Willan deployed as a CF before whether it was playing for Chelsea, Brazil or Shaktar so I am bemused why Arteta thought it could work. I hope he scrap the idea as at this stage of Willian’s career he doesn’t have the legs to be successful there.
    A back four might be the way to get more creativity from the midfield but Arteta’s problem is finding a partner for Gabriel. None of the other CD’s are up to standard which is why Arteta reverted to a back three initially. We were all hoping that Saliba would be integrated into the squad but alas Arteta is of the view that he is not ready. I still rate Leno as a good shot stopper but in Martinez we had a keeper who would hold on to shots rather than just parry them and he was a lot better at passing the ball when we play from the back. The transition from the back into midfield is slow and from midfield to the forwards is almost nonexistent, which is why we see little creativity in the final third. We desperately need one of two ball carriers in midfield as once the opposition set up defensively our midfielders only option is passing square or back. I also think its time Arteta use AMN at right back as Bellerin has been awful in most of the games he has played since coming back from the terrible injury.

  18. While I was a fan of Willian in his heyday , given his age I was against his recruitment, and that of Soares and Mari for other reasons.There would seem to be a trend to play a deep lying C.F with the aim of him linking up with wingers who will hold a higher line, much like the Liverpool front three set up.Kane is being used in this way as a feeder for the speedy and elusive Song .Nketiah is not in my opinion capable of such a role, but Laca certainly is, and for that reason I was very surprised, and disappointed to see him left out in favour of Willian.The tactic was not a success, and I very much doubt if Arteta will try it with Willian again. I can understand why Arteta would try to get one over his mentor tactically, but on this occasion he got it wrong, as he will do on many occasions in future.There has never been a Manager who has not erred tactically or in terms of selection.Only arm chair pundits and failed Managers like Neville and Scholes are perfect!

    1. 👍…I think that is exactly what happened MA tried to think out of the box to put one up in his teacher. It just back fired. He is still learning n this is his first job so hopefully this has made his brain cells to go into over drive. He is teh right man for the job just needs to come out this cautious shell he has moved into. I feel from what I have seen so far this season and end of last season, his blue print is pretty similar to Morinihio’s Chelsea but we don’t have those sort of players. I don’t want us to become that Chelsea either they did won trophies in tons but then they were never attractive to watch. I thought as an ex Arsenal player and to have learnt his art from two of the most attacking managers he was going to be more in that sort of mould but it seems like he is more in Morinhio / Italian managers Lippi sort of mould.

  19. Decision of an inexperienced manager who is struggling to find a style of football .. difference with Leeds is telling … fast attacking football with mistakes but for a squad that probably cost a quarter or less than ours the difference with having a manager who has a philosophy And confidence in executing it is palpable

    1. Leeds are so lively… 30 minutes in and look at the ground they’ve all covered, especially Luke Ayling! I bet his tracking device can’t keep up with him 😄

      1. 🤣 .. the play with a confidence that we have somehow lost … less a problem of tracking and more one of lingering traces from last few years!!!

              1. Wolves even in their Portugal kit tonight Sue 🇵🇹🤪 haha well the 2 premier League favourites Aston Villa and Leeds go head to head next week should be interesting 😉😅 champions League tomorrow, come on PSG 😀

                1. Very interesting 😉 Can’t wait for that, Kev.. Neymar and Mbappe to run riot?! See the fridge isn’t playing – his seals have had it haha!! So glad europe is back, Kev!

                  1. Haha slab head not in the squad ? 😯😅 Oh I would be astonished if they don’t expose that united defence I’m going for a 4-0 even if I don’t believe it as I really can’t stand them.😂 Yes after we beat Leicester 5-0 we can think about breaking the old Trafford jinx 😉🤪 yeah it’s a change those internationals drained me and we have one more break this year can’t wait until it’s over 😀

                  2. They drained me too.. 2 weeks seemed like 6 months! Urgh one more next month, I can’t stand it!!
                    I’ll be happy with 4-0, Kev.. Di Maria to rub it in also 😉 Yes that 14 year jinx…what with them getting at least one penalty every game and the officials well and truly on their side, what are the odds?!
                    5-0 against Leicester??!! 😂 I’m sure Vardy will have something to say..and will more than likely get a penalty!!

        1. I thought when we signed Willian that he would be in a Santi Cazorla role. To see him deployed as a CF at Man City was weird particularly in a match of that status. If we play tactically every game how will we play beautiful football? I’m not enjoying our style of football at the moment. Hopefully sooner than later we can turn Willian into a creative player.

  20. Arteta is already tired of being Arsenal Manager. He just want to justify that Willian is a great acquisition. It backfired on him and its still gonna backfire. Im still saying that Willian and Soares are bad signings by Arteta

  21. There was absolutely no need to play Willian as CF when your best CF is on the bench. MA shouldnt be experimenting like this or else top 4 will be out of sight, as Everton and Aston Villa are also in the mix now. Next PL match is against Leicester at home and we have to go all out for a win and not be too defensive. No time now to experiment and go with a conventional 4-3-3 system, with Partey, Ceballos and Saka in the midfield, Auba and Pepe on the wings supporting Laca in the centre.

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors
JustArsenal Top Ten UK Blogs