Willian played a key role in all three of our goals against Fulham and provided a constant attacking threat.
Don’t get me wrong, in ten years’ time, when Chelsea fans look back on Willian’s time on the blue side of London, he’ll be remembered mostly for tearing down the right flank while donning the no. 22 shirt. Having said that, it’s fitting that a man with such brilliant playmaking talent got the chance to finish his fantastic tenure in west London with the famous number ten on his back. A number which has become synonymous with creativity in modern day football – less so recently at Arsenal…
It’d be fair to say that the creative aspect of Willian’s game was somewhat underappreciated by Chelsea fans. Despite racking up impressive underlying creative metrics throughout his career with the Blues, Willian always seemed to be judged on his goalscoring outlet.
However, at Arsenal, in a team void of creativity, Willian finally has an opportunity to gain some well-deserved recognition for his playmaking capabilities.
Life representing Arsenal couldn’t really have started much better for Willian than it did against Fulham – yes, it would’ve been nice for him to grab a debut goal. Nonetheless, that hasn’t stopped Arsenal fans across social media celebrating his two assists as if they were two goals. Off the back of a disastrous season where we looked toothless offensively, Willian offered Arsenal fans a spark that their team has been missing for a long time.
The Brazilian helped Arsenal to retain the ball in offensive areas as shown by his noteworthy 96.2% pass accuracy, while also delivering three key passes.
His impact alone helped Arsenal to look much more imposing while trying to unpick Fulham’s back line. In addition, his brilliant close range free-kick which cannoned off the post and pinpoint corner delivery to set up Gabriel’s debut goal showed Mikel Arteta has found an apt solution to the lack of right-footed set piece specialists in his squad.
A debut to remember for our new number 12.
Interestingly, Willian also looked like he’s already formed an excellent relationship with Hector Bellerin, who looked like he had his mojo back offensively yesterday. Either one of Bellerin or Willian was always in the half-space whereas the other was on the overlap. Certainly, an intriguing dynamic considering we often looked to lack fluidity down the right-hand side at the back end of last season.
It’ll be fascinating to see whether Arteta could conjure up a system which could see Bellerin, Willian and Pépé working in tandem in the future.
Post-game, Arteta didn’t seem at all surprised by the impact Willian made. Speaking to BT Sport, the Spaniard stated: “I knew his performance would happen straight away.”
He also later elaborated upon players such as Nicolas Pépé – who were left out – and now “have to raise their level” due to Willian’s man-of-the-match display. The acquisition of the 32-year-old looks to have been a really astute one. He will force a fair few of players in our squad to improve themselves or risk falling further afield.
At 32, we all know Willian isn’t the beall and end all. He is at most a stopgap signing who will temporarily help to solve our creative issue. However, yesterday he showed that he’s more than capable of improving our team as an offensive force. Hopefully, the veteran can carry his promising form into a tough run of fixtures coming up for Arteta’s team.