When Arsenal completed their pursuit of Willian last summer, there were mixed feelings among supporters and neutrals alike.
While there was no questioning the Brazilian’s supreme talents, the length of the deal raised more than a few eyebrows.
“It was difficult,” he said of his Stamford Bridge exit. “They knew how much I wanted to stay. I wanted to be a legend for the club. It was strange.
And with Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, Willian got everything he wanted when they agreed to a contract that would see him tied to the club until 2023.
“He has the experience of everything in the football world but to still have the ambition to come here and contribute to bring the club where it belongs,” Arteta said after signing Willian. “I have been really impressed with all the talks I have had with him and how much he wanted to come.”
In a recent interview, Willian suggested he was in the midst of the worst run of form in his career – and few would disagree.
“Even after that game there were some games that we won, I even had a good game, but then we ended up getting a bad streak.
“I also got a bad streak and I think my worst professional time to date, since I went up at Corinthians and was sold to Ukraine, then I arrived at Chelsea, without a doubt. This phase that passed now was the worst time that I think I lived as a professional.”
The regrets over agreeing to a long-term deal may be starting to be felt in the corridors of the Emirates Stadium.
Particularly after Arsene Wenger had spent the best part of two decades showing it was a policy he would disagree with.
The legendary Frenchman ended up losing veteran players due to his strict stance, as he explained in an interview towards the end of his tenure.
“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,” he 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.”
Arteta may now be wishing he followed suit.
[email protected] (Ben Husband)