In terms of transfers, there have been plenty of successes during Mikel Arteta’s time in charge of Arsenal.
One player who that can not be said of though is Willian.
The Brazilian has been without doubt the worst signing of Arteta‘s tenure so far, scoring just one goal (his free-kick against West Brom last weekend) and registering five assists in 25 Premier League appearances.
Defenders of the 32-year-old would argue that those numbers actually put him among Arsenal’s top goal creators in the league this season, but if you analyse them there is little to suggest the quality and experience he was signed for has been on show.
Three of the assists have come from set-pieces, while one was a diagonal switch to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the opening day of the season against Fulham that the Gabon forward finished excellently.
Without wishing to sound too much like Michael Owen about the whole thing, it’s easy to see how Willian’s stats can distort what has been an abject campaign.
Another argument in favour of the former Chelsea winger is that he came in on a free transfer so the cost of the mistake is relatively minimal.
However, the three-year contracted he signed worth a reported £200,000 per week flies immediately in the face of that.
This hefty ill-advised financial commitment is one that Arsenal are going to struggle to move on from. football.london understands the Brazilian is happy to stay at the Emirates this summer, and even if he did want to leave it’s difficult to imagine that there would be many clubs willing to take on his salary.
At this point, it feels like reaching for low-hanging fruit to criticise the 32-year-old, but perhaps the most frustrating thing about watching him trot nonchalantly around the pitch this season has been that that game time could easily have been given to a youngster coming through.
Surely Reiss Nelson – who has hardly featured for the first team this season – would not have produced performances any worse than what Willian has turned out, while Gabriel Martinelli has also seen his minutes stifled.
The wing positions are an area where Arsenal are relatively well-stocked already with exciting talents like Kido Taylor-Hart among the names who could be next to come off of the Hale End conveyor belt into the first team.
However, with Willian’s contract still with two years on it, that next generation could also see their pathway blocked.
In fairness, that is not the Brazilian’s fault. Instead, it is an oversight by Arteta and Edu as they seek to rebuild the club to its former glory.
The pair may have done well to listen to their old manager Arsene Wenger‘s rule on the issue of handing out lengthy contracts to ageing players in order to save themselves another two years of hurt.
The Frenchman’s position on handing out deals to players over the age of 32 was that they should only be offered a maximum 12-month extension so as to protect the club in case their quality of performance began to rapidly decline.
“It’s not over 30, it’s over 32. So when you have a player [who is] 32 he will just get a one-year contract,” Wenger explained in 2010.
“It depends on the positions as well. If a central defender, then no problem to sign them until 34. But a striker is different.
“After 32 you go from year to year. A midfielder as well, after 32 you go from year to year.”
Arsenal’s new pearl ‘citrine pale yellow’ is available to buy now from ArsenalDirect.
Purchases will be exclusive to Arsenal and kit manufacturers Adidas until May 20.
The jersey is inspired from an old classic from the club’s past, celebrating 50 years since the club won the league and FA Cup double.
This article contains affiliate links, we may receive a commission on any sales we generate from it.Learn more
Wenger did get things wrong when it came to his contract policy, but in this instance, he was most definitely right.
“Take care of the values of the club” was his parting message to a packed Emirates Stadium as he left the club three years ago.
With their Willian decision, Arteta and Edu look to have failed at this and the consequences of that mistake are only just beginning to come to a head.