Willian is Definitely Good Enough for Arsenal
Willian’s purported move to Arsenal has raised some questions among the fanbase. Apart from the question of his wages, supporters wonder if Willian is worth any of the trouble. He does not appear to have consistently great statistical output even though he has been heavily involved in a Chelsea side that has qualified for the Champions League two seasons in a row above Arsenal, appeared in an FA Cup final and has won the Europa League.
(Credit to Stitches_DC on Reddit for the analysis)
Last season, according to adjusted fbref data, Willian ranked as 15th out of 271 “creative players” and profiled as a very good chance creator with above average performance in every passing metric. Data indicates he is able to get the ball into the danger areas in multiple ways, which should be beneficial to Arsenal.
In live-ball situations, while he has a high rate of shots on target, it is not being converted to a high goal scoring output, so that breeds questions regarding the quality of his finishing or where he decides to shoot from. Since Willian also plays predominantly on the right for Chelsea, it might be a factor in his weak conversion as when he cuts in from the right, he has to shoot from his weaker left foot as opposed to cutting in from the left at Arsenal where he can shoot on a stronger left foot. Another explanation is that maybe he has faced above average goalkeeping across the season with the bottom line being that Willian has great potential for strong improvement on his goalscoring return. He’s shooting a lot but not getting the goals in return. Arteta could improve that.
Willian also profiled as an excellent ball carrier, in possession a lot and trustworthy in not losing it. He has an average number of attempts to dribble past defenders, but whenever he does try, he is very effective at it. When paired with his slightly more moderate goal and assists output, his dependable ability on ball is important to have. Does get criticized for slowing down play too much sometimes, which isn’t the best considering how good we’ve been on the counter-attack last season. However, going by observations from the possession-heavy part of Arteta’s tenure, we may not remain a heavy counterattack side next season.
Defensively, Willian is a pretty average defender in every way, shape, and form. Around middle of the pack in take on attempts and in rate of success. Does come back on defense to help out and seems flexible enough to adapt to Arteta’s more press-heavy style, although his age would make you wonder how long he can keep that up.
Willian is generally an above average winger, a “glue” player who can help to elevate the overall quality of most teams. He does need to work on his shooting efficiency, but has a great creative profile to engineer chances for his teammates to score. And on a free at the rumored 100k a week wages, he holds good value in the creative area we need at a very low price.
Overall, Willian is an excellent ball-carrier: holds onto a lot of possession, rarely gets dispossessed, and who has an impressive ability to dribble past a nearby defender. With a moderate to above average total output (goals, assists, dangerous passes), his trustworthy dribbling and on-ball possession helps improve his profile and make up for lack of elite creative output.
98 shots created from open play passing (3rd highest in the PL).
145 shot-creation actions (5th).
68 passes into the box (6th).
5.02 shot-creating actions per 90 (6th).
71 key passes into dangerous zones (7th).
A simple comparison with Nicolas Pépé shows that Willian is about equal on assist and goal metrics, has a significantly better creative passing profile, gets dispossessed much less per carry, and has a much higher percentile in dribbling success rate. Pepe is obviously going to get better and he is younger, but that comparison should help illustrate what Willian would look like: we will be better with him on the left.
Willian can be an important cog in a team whose all-around ability can help elevate a team through complementary play. A very good passer, trustworthy and generally progressive dribbler, and a solid, flexible defender: a real glue player. At the rumored 100k a week wages (plus add-ons), Willian will be a bargain. And, of course, it also helps that he is a Tottenham-hater lol!
— amadí ¨̮ (@amadoit__) May 12, 2017