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Can Willian be valuable on a free transfer?

Is Willian the right fit for Arsenal? It is a complicated question to answer, but a player with his traits cannot really be bad. We detail why here.

Willian has certainly had a decorated career with both Chelsea and Brazil. And yet, at 31-years-old, he is not as spry as he once and although he can provide experience, ability, grit and intellect, he also likely takes up a spot of one of the many young guns. Amid rumours that he could arrive at Arsenal on a free transfer this summer as his contract at Stamford Bridge expires, then, this juxtaposition between pedigree and prosperity is extremely pertinent.

Josh Sippie wrote this week that signing Willian would mean losing out on Bukayo Saka. However, while I agree with the timbre of the assessment, surely it’s the situation is more complex.

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It would be difficult to keep all of the talent at Arsenal happy certainly, but winning can postpone many of those issues. What Willian can teach the young gunners could be worth the year or two of sharing time with him.

And it goes beyond Saka. Players like Nicolas Pepe, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli could all sharpen themselves playing alongside Willian. It is much the same notion that Unai Emery had when he signed David Luiz.

Moreover, signing Willian for free would be a bonus for a financially weakened Arsenal. Other free signings could appeal given the current financial pressures the club is feeling. Bringing in a player like Willian isn’t necessarily a death sentence for the playing of youth and adding such winning calibre and quality on the cheap is no bad thing.

Mikel Arteta knows how to mix in youth and experience. He also knows how to operate a deep rotation of players throughout the various seasonal competitions. Arsenal understand that they must get younger, admittedly, but Willian is the type of player you sign to consistently produce. In the meantime, he can educate the team on how to win.

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It is hard to argue with the potential price of bringing Willian to north London. Add in the mentorship he can provide and the versatility and consistent production that he has provided over an extended career and it makes an economically sensible deal in the current climate. And while the wing positions do not feel as though they are the most pressing positions to address, it cannot hurt to add depth and veteran leadership.

It should also be noted that Arsenal are expected to sell major players as well; names like Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Shkodran Mustafi and Mesut Ozil are constantly being spoken about. Should any of this happen, signing Willian provides flexibility and security to then invest in other targets. He is a safety net to take more risks in what could be an unruly market. What that could end up meaning for Arsenal far outweighs whatever salary considerations a free transfer would elicit.

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Instead of looking at Willian as a frivolous piece to add to Arsenal’s attack, then, he could be a cheap and important addition in conjunction with the other moves of the summer, as well as providing education to the young players already at the club. In this manner, Willian makes sense.

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