Take this with a pinch of salt if you prefer, but I have heard that Willian is fully aware of how unpopular he is with Arsenal fans, is greatly distressed by it and wants to win us over with better displays on the pitch.
It’s not exactly surprising that the ex-Chelsea forward is aware of the ire directed at him. Footballers have 24/7 access to social media and most of them dip into it to see what people are saying about them. They’re only human after all, even Harry Kane.
This story comes from a friend who had a tradesman in their home recently. The tradesman’s son is mates with one of the young players at Arsenal and hence the origin of the tale. As you can see, it’s fourth hand at best, so I am almost embarrassed passing it on here except that it made me step back and rethink my attitude towards Willian.
The ‘young player at Arsenal’ is alleged to have shared the information that Willian knows he has been performing below par and is eager to get back to his best. He has been upset by all the criticism but knows the only way to counter it is with better performances.
However, he also feels he has been somewhat unfairly singled out during a bad run in which the team as a whole was playing badly.
I wouldn’t say Willian was especially singled out during our abysmal run of results: there were plenty in the dock with him, including Xhaka, Aubameyang, Luiz, Elneny, Lacazette, Bellerin, Pepe and others. But of late the negative focus has been more on Willian perhaps.
First I should hold my hands up and admit that I have been slagging off the Brazilian something rotten in my match reports and general comments. I’ll make no apology for that – he has been terrible.
But this insight into his thinking (if true) gives the lie to some commonly used lines of criticism, such as “he doesn’t care” and “he’s just here for the money and an easy life.”
We sometimes forget how hard it is to get to the top in football. You need a hell of a lot of skill but that’s not enough. You also need a hard competitive edge and a strong personality. In short, you have to be a winner, you have to hate losing and you need to have a lot of pride (often accompanied by an oversized ego).
Does anyone really believe Willian arrived at Arsenal thinking: “Right, that’s a decent three year deal in my back pocket: I can put my feet up and glide into a very comfortable retirement without having to bust a gut too much.”?
I’m sure he was well pleased with the deal (it was clearly over-generous for a player of his age), but I also have no doubt he came to us intending to do well and win trophies.
We have seen other out-of-favour players go through a rehabilitation process with fans (recently including Laca, and over the past year including Xhaka, Luiz and even Mustafi) so I have no doubt there is a path back for Willian. However, it will be contingent on one thing and one thing only: how he does on the pitch.
We know he has talent (we saw him display plenty of it at the West London Oilers). But we need him to apply it on our behalf on a more consistent basis and we need to see a lot more effort, including on the defensive end. We fans will always forgive a player who is plainly busting a gut for the team.
He has worked his way down the pecking order since arriving in N5 and will need to work his way back up again, but he can – and should – be an important arrow in our quiver during the rest of the season.
Surely we can all agree that an in-form Willian would be an asset?