When Willian signed for Arsenal after a brief transfer saga, many were left a bit nonplussed.

Even the usual joy of pinching a player from your rivals couldn’t comfort some Gunners as it was clear Chelsea were happy to let Willian leave and have indeed replaced him with younger, more exciting players.

That’s the thing, though. The players may be more exciting, but are they better in the here and now? Arsenal signed Willian because he is ready to rock and roll from day one. He doesn’t need a season or so to find true top-level consistency and rhythm in the same way that Bukayo Saka and certainly Nicolas Pépé do. He’s good already, a proven Premier League stud.

“He has very special qualities. He has experience in this league,” said Arteta on Friday, adding praise for his physical hardiness: “he’s a player that doesn’t miss football matches. Last season at Chelsea you could see the amount of games he played.”

Against Fulham we saw an almost perfect example of just how potent a top-tier creative winger can be in Mikel Arteta’s system at Arsenal. The Brazilian was the man who turned the Gunners’ endless dominance of the match into actual dominance on the scoresheet.

Arsenal’s first goal came because Willian took up a superb position in the middle of the pitch and fought hard to get a shot off after a defensive mistake. It didn’t go down as an assist, but his shot did lead to Alexandre Lacazette’s opener.

Arsenal’s second goal came because Willian bent a beautiful corner into the box that Gabriel rose to head home.

Arsenal’s third goal came because Willian lasered a beautiful cross-field pass through the air (one of many he made that afternoon) to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in space, and the Arsenal skipper smashed the ball home. Continue reading

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