How empty stadiums led Willian away from Arsenal as Brazilian explains reasons for exit

Willian ArsenalGetty
  • Spent 12 months with Gunners
  • Agreed to have contract terminated
  • Now back in England with Fulham

WHAT HAPPENED? The experienced Brazilian forward joined the Gunners in 2020 as a free agent after running down his contract at Chelsea, with that switch made at a time when coronavirus-enforced restrictions were in place. Willian struggled to find a spark after swapping west London for life in the north of the English capital and agreed to have his contract terminated by mutual consent in August 2021 after just 12 months at Emirates Stadium.

WHAT THEY SAID: Explaining why he walked away from Arsenal, a man now back in English football at Fulham has told The Athletic: “I think I’m maybe the only player who has done something like this [cancelled contract early]. Any other player in my situation would have stayed until the end of the contract and kept picking up the money. But I’m not like this. Money is not the most important thing in the world. I have to feel good, to feel motivated to go to training. I wasn’t having that there so I decided to leave.

“For most of the season, we were playing without fans. I didn’t see Arsenal fans. Maybe I needed to feel the buzz of the crowd, that it was something I missed. It was a difficult moment not just for me, but for everyone in the world. To play without fans at a new club is not easy.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Willian took in just 37 appearances for Arsenal and managed only one goal, with that solitary strike coming in a 3-1 win over relegated West Brom.


Willian Arsenal

Willian Arsenal 2020-21Getty Images

Willian Arsenal 2020-21Getty

WHAT NEXT FOR WILLIAN? The 34-year-old winger linked up with Fulham on September 1 after severing ties with Corinthians and has helped the Cottagers to make a positive start to life back in the Premier League during the 2022-23 campaign.

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