Is Willian The Exception To The Rule? by Dan Smith
You know if you’ve been hurt in a previous relationship, you struggle to trust your new partner. It’s not that he or she has done anything wrong, it’s just that you’ve been hurt before, so you are trying to protect yourself.
That’s some Gooners reaction to the signing of Willian. At 32, and with Chelsea not prepared to offer him a 3 year deal, the perception is we have been given another one of our rival’s casts off who is past his best.
It’s understandable why our fanbase get frustrated as we have sent Adebayor, Touré, Sagna, Clichy, Nasri, Van Persie and Sanchez to Manchester, The Ox to Liverpool while Ashley Cole, Petit, Anelka, Fabregas and Giroud all ended up at Chelsea.
Yet the idea of us ever poaching one of the traditional big 4 sides best talent seems unthinkable, which sums up the ambition of our owner.
Here is our recent track record the rare times a Chelsea or Man United player made the move to North London (interestingly zero Liverpool and City players have moved to Highbury or the Emirates in the Prem era but some have gone the other way).
To be fair to Arsene Wenger the plan wasn’t for Silvestre to play as many games as he did. He was simply a cheap option to fill a place in the squad, but injuries saw us relying on him in games as big as a Champions League Semi Final.
We quickly realised why United were not offering him a new contract and why they practically gave him to us for free, he hadn’t recovered from an injury which saw him miss 7 months of action at Old Trafford. Knee ligament damage robbed him of any pace. The Frenchmen was a solid performer for Sir Alex Ferguson who you sense almost out of a reward for his service got him one last big pay day.
In the previous two summers Arsenal had been linked with the likes of Higuaín and Suarez so gooners were a little underwhelmed when it was announced we had signed Welbeck on deadline day.
Ironically though there were some Man United fans who were disappointed a young talent was being sold to a top 4 contender (how do they think we feel?).
Louis Van Gal didn’t make himself popular by saying the striker didn’t have the standard to be a centre forward for a big club. In hindsight he was right with Welbeck great at holding the ball and linking up with others but not a reliable finisher. To be fair though injuries were the reason he didn’t fulfil his potential. It felt like every year there was a season ending injury.
Getting a swap deal was the best Arsenal could manage out of a horrible situation they had got themselves into. In many ways Man United agreeing to a player exchange for Sanchez saved our blushes as the Chilean was months away from leaving on a free, when we had turned down a 60-million-pound bid only a few months prior.
Mkhitaryan though had already showed he was struggling to adapt to English Football, making it a gamble to give such a high wage to. This is a player who was brilliant in Germany and to be fair his loan in Italy has gone fairly well. You do get talent who for various reasons are just not suited to the Premier League .
It was never good when the best left back in the world joins a title rival, but swapping Ashley Cole with Gallas wasn’t a bad compromise in principle. Gallas had won two consecutive title medals but in many ways that was part of the problem.
He had gone from a dressing room of leaders to a young one where he wasn’t the captain he had to be. To be fair the Frenchman was used to certain standards under Jose Mourinho and struggled when he felt that mentality didn’t exist at the Emirates.
When we conceded a late penalty at Birmingham instead of putting an arm round Clichy’s shoulder, Gallas staged a one-man sit-down protest and was once caught on TV in a pre-match warm up essentially telling Theo Walcott he was too physically weak.
You see that the majority who made the move from Stamford Bridge to the Emirates were maybe surplus to requirements, but this one was a mistake from our end.
Diarra couldn’t get game time in West London so moved across the Capital to still just sit on the bench.
It’s not like Arsene Wenger was shy in giving youth a chance but for whatever reason the Profwould only play his countryman in the League Cup. Over 12 months later, he won the FA Cup with Portsmouth, who had activated his 5 million buyout clause, and then moved to a certain Real Madrid for 20 million!!!
It’s amazing that two of the biggest clubs in this country failed to see what they had right under their noses.
These were the dark days when we actually had the nerve in not just selling Fabregas and Nasri, but trying to get away without even replacing them. It took an 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford to pressure the board to do last ditch business on deadline day.
Did we spend the approx. 50 million we had just made (we sold Clichy as well)? Of course not. We went to Stamford Bridge with a begging bowl and asked for help, and they said they would see if they had anything around the back. In all seriousness Benayoun was the type of individual a young squad needed at the time. A reliable professional who you can trust to do a job when needed.
When you consider that Jose Mourinho fell out with his bosses for allowing Cech to join us, in hindsight he really shouldn’t have worried. He wanted to stay in London and, out of gratitude for his services, Roman Abramovich wasn’t going to block the transfer, even if at the time many felt it could help us win the title.
He wasn’t bad at Arsenal, it was just clear that age was catching up on him. To be fair he didn’t have the defence to work with like he used to at the Bridge.
Our delight in landing Pepe last summer seemed to make some fans ignore the fact that we had essentially swapped Koscielny with David Luiz. Luiz would go on to concede more penalties and red cards in one year at Arsenal compared to his 7 years at Chelsea. It almost sums up his career that his two best displays for us were in the FA Cup Semi Final and Final
You could argue then, that unlike the players our rivals got off us none in this list were a success. Yet were they ever meant to be?
The majority, due to age, were not needed by their club anymore and only joined us due to not wanting to move their families or one final pay day. Us on the other hand just saw an opportunity to get a cheap deal.
You put that criteria together and it’s only natural that at best we view these players as okay but not as good as they were in their prime.
Many will say we are doing the same again with Willian.
He’s 32, meaning that there is zero resale value and his motives are clear. He’s joined us because we were willing to pay over the odds in terms of his wage while Chelsea were not.
Yet Willian could be the exception to the rule. Yes, we were only interested because he’s free, but he will make our squad better. He scored more League goals then our entire midfield combined.
Where Arsene Wenger would be reluctant to buy, even give long term contracts to those over 30, Arteta is not in that position. He’s just seen us finish in our worst position in 25 years, so he has to think in the short term.
How can he make the team better during a Pandemic when we don’t know when we are or even if we are getting match day revenue?
He can’t do what those in Manchester can do. He has to be creative, so if a proven Prem player is a free agent at a time when we lack any kind of creativity. We are not good enough to be putting our nose up to someone just because he’s other rivals cast off.
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