Arsenal’s decision to hand Willian a three-year contract when snapping him up as a free agent has been branded “unnecessary”, with Nigel Winterburn admitting the former Chelsea star has “underperformed”.
The Gunners appeared to have pulled off quite a coup when luring an experienced Brazil international away from Stamford Bridge and into a new challenge at Emirates Stadium.
Having helped his former club to two Premier League titles and Europa League glory across 339 appearances in west London, the 32-year-old was expected to thrive in the north of the capital - but that has not been the case.
What has been said?
“Willian has underperformed in an Arsenal shirt so far,” legendary former Arsenal defender Winterburn, speaking in association with FreeSuperTips, told Goal.
“You can’t hide away from the fact that most of the supporters expected a lot more than what we’ve seen so far.
“There’s no doubt in my mind the ability he has, especially watching him play at Chelsea, but he hasn’t delivered that for Arsenal.
“The problem that he has now is with the emergence of some of the young players, it’s looking like his chances are going to be limited because the younger players are the players that Mikel Arteta simply cannot leave out of the team.
“Initially, I thought Willian was a good signing, I did also worry that I didn’t want it to interfere with the progression of some of the younger players, but also that experience from a player Willian, can help guide the younger players. Willian is simply not performing at the same level for Arsenal as he was for Chelsea.
“At this moment in time, you’d have to say that giving him a three-year contract was unnecessary, but if we offered him a one-year contract, then I don’t think he would’ve joined Arsenal.
“I understand the logistics of what the club was trying to achieve when they brought him in at that period of time. However, given the way the club has developed this season with their younger players, I’m sure the club will look back and think it was a transfer they didn’t need to make.”
Willian’s record in 2020-21
The experienced South American has taken in 24 appearances for Arsenal across all competitions.
He has contributed three assists to the collective cause, but is still waiting on a first goal in a Gunners shirt.
That lack of end product has contributed to him slipping down the pecking order, with Mikel Arteta already favouring other options.
Willian has not started a Premier League game since December 19 and faces a fight to win his place back.
The bigger picture
Willian’s track record suggests that he could come good in time, but patience is a commodity that few are afforded in modern football.
He will be aware of that and acknowledge that he needs to raise his game in order to enjoy a return to form and favour.
Part of the problem for Arsenal is that he is now tied to a lucrative deal through to 2023, with Arteta having only recently removed one expensive luxury from his books in the form of World Cup winner Mesut Ozil – who is now in Turkey with Fenerbahce.