Willian looked and played like a long-serving Gunner in his debut at Fulham
While I believe no one should be forgetting about Nicolas Pepe for this coming campaign, performances like this by Willian might cause a few Gooners a spell of amnesia. He was that wonderful. Compiling two assists – he very arguably should’ve had another – and coming close to scoring twice, he was Arsenal’s star man.
He has clearly taken to what Mikel Arteta is asking of him like a duck to water. This is impressive on both sides; for while Willian, Edu’s free transfer mind you, is obviously a fast study as a footballer, the boss seems to be quickly gaining a reputation as a communicator of the most clear variety. For a young manager to have such ability to articulate ones vision to players both young and old is real and true brilliance.
But, moving back to Willian, the right-winger showed his ability on numerous chances. From the near goal, near assist that fell to Alexandre Lacazette, to the set piece assist to Gabriel one could feel his impact upon his teammates. The absolutely spot on cross to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to free him for the third tally of the match for Arsenal was beautiful and demonstrated creativity that Arsenal has sorely lacked in consistency for years. What will the rest of the campaign bring?
Arsenal’s Willian: A Traveling Masterclass
In the piece regarding Nicolas Pepe, I spoke about the class of the winger. To be clear, with players like the untouchable Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, alongside Pepe, Willian, as well as an eventually healthy Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal will be an intimidating, vibrant force in creating width and space for real class opportunities.
But Willian is a key element in this, for while he is getting older as a footballer, his mind is still growing sharper. What he can provide those players, even the captain, should really tighten and strengthen the group and develop the individual talents.
I would suspect that Willian will not always feature as a starter, but that he will almost always play in some capacity. Nicolas Pepe must contribute and develop for the Gunners to be a true top four threat; with a right side of Willian and Pepe, the firepower and creative threats should be intense and continuous.
Martinelli, Willian, Edu & Even Gabriel: Arsenal’s Brazilian Connection
Although one cannot know for certain just how influential Edu’s time as a part of the Brazilian Football Confederation was in bringing Willian across town from Chelsea, we do know the influence it had on Gabriel Martinelli himself, as well as for centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes.
Martinelli’s play before injury was astounding, even to Willian himself. His development, both in England and Brazil, could be a secret windfall when it finally does arrive. Willian looks to be there for the foreseeable future along the way, and this could be as big an innovation for Martinelli since Arteta’s arrival.
For there are few teenagers who get to train, not only with a talent and knowledge the size of Willian’s, but also with both Aubameyang and Pepe. For players of developed quality this would be an exciting room to be a part of, but for a young, sponge-like, prodigious talent? It must truly be bliss, and the time he has missed must ultimately be an agony he had suffered infrequently prior to that point; the feeling he gets upon his return will likely fuel an even greater push moving forward with his career, and Willian will have a part to play in that undoubtedly.
Edu has done a wonderful job in bringing these players in and selling them on the vision of Arsenal moving ahead. Arteta too has been key in this, but for Edu, many of his moves have appeared logical, and have looked to strengthen the club from its previous positions. While Arteta has utilized these pieces well since arriving, this Brazilian connection, as well as the players it has brought to Arsenal, are all looking to be some of the year’s biggest contributors.
Willian is chief among those names. After the first match of the season against Fulham, one has little doubt that he will fulfill as many statistical and match obligations as he can. For Arsenal, that could very well lead to more silverware and even a spot in the Champions League once again. If it does, we will have to pay some gratitude to Auba, Willian, as well as the other young wingers.