Ready, Willian and Able

Willian the Conquered?

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?



33 Responses to Ready, Willian and Able

  1. RA says:

    Hi Rocky,

    Before talking to your Post, I can tell you that my viewing of the game was très short, so I cannot really make a fair assessment or ratings.

    However, L’Equipe gave a 6 out of 10 for Saliba (their top rating) which surprised me a bit; and a lowly 4 out of 10 for The Jeff, (their lowest) which surprised me even more.

    Sacré bleu. 🤪

  2. RA says:

    Super stuff, Rocky,

    I was having a laugh with LB yesterday, and had to admit that he had a point about Willie Boy, in that some of the usual suspects you named, especially Belli and El Neny for example are not exactly great team mates to help support him. (Something that probably has not helped Pepe either, maybe).

    I had said that I thought Willian was trying too hard (a result of hoping to change the fans’ view of his value to the team) and that can make matters worse rather than better.

    Your Post is far better than my comments (statement of the bleeding obvious) 🤪 or to be candid, the comments of LB, the head of the groupies, altho he had convinced me, almost, to become a group man too. 😜

    In essence, I think you are correct, it is certainly worth giving Willian more time to get his act together, because on song he will massively improve our team, as it stands.

  3. RockyLives says:

    Thanks Redders

    Interesting that Saliba got the highest rating from L’Equipe.

    I know Fulham are not up to much this season, but in our opening game against them Willian was devastating. If he can produce even 50% of that on a regular basis he’ll be an asset.

  4. RA says:

    I do not understand the Saliba situation, Rocky.

    The impression I get from ‘someone who knows someone’ is that it seems to be a loan deal that gives Nice an option to buy.

    Apparently, because of a family matter, he has serious home sickness and wants to go back to France.

    Probably guesswork, so I don’t take much notice.
    [Maybe, RC can throw some light on it — and how the game (Nice) went from his perspective.]

    As regards Willian’s performance in our demolition of Fulham at the start of the season, and the improvement in his performance in our last game, we have two very good book ends — in future, he just has to fill the spaces in between with the same quality, and love will return! 😜

  5. RA says:

    By the by — you are right, Rai Khannedy was the first Asian Arsenal player after all — and I happened to pop into his curry house in ‘Pool last week, and when he served us, he kept saying “take that – you Spuds” — he only stopped when told we were not Spuds – we were Spivs. 😛

  6. RockyLives says:


  7. Pete the Thirst says:

    I’ll you this for nothing Rocky: “he doesn’t care” and “he’s just here for the money and an easy life.”

  8. Akinzo says:

    The only players who have consistently been head and shoulders above their peers close to 2 decades now are Messi and Ronaldo.
    A lot of fans often feel they know more about a team than managers and coaches who sees his players daily.
    I knew William was going through a blip. There is no player who has been at the top go doesn’t want to remain there but it’s even more difficult to be consistent than getting to the top.
    Trust me, we will again see the Willian that shone so bright against Fulham.
    The entire team played bad but some players were just singled out as scapegoats. Some Ven suggested Aubemayang weren’t interested. How can they not know that he has been suffering with his lack of form. Rather than see this they claimed he wasn’t interested.
    The confidence has crept back and it would take something special for the likes of Burnley and Leicester to beat us at the Emirates again

  9. RockyLives says:

    But… but… my mate’s tradesman’s son’s friend says…

    It must be true!


  10. Pete the Thirst says:

    Just kidding Rocky.

    I think the smell of Kia Joorabchian is hanging around Willian. Let’s not forget Willian, Luiz & Cedric were all signed up to ludicrous contracts. They all have the same agent who was clearly very close to the previous Head of Football – Raul the Spiv. The Spiv has gone and Kia’s influence has been minimised apart from the diabolical performances from his clients.

    Any link? Seems a coincidence that when these players aren’t in the side we look a much better team.

    Unfortunately we’re likely to be saddled with the Cedric & Willian ’til their contracts expire.

    Add those to the bizarre deals that Raul cut for Pepe (£72 million to sit on the bench) and Saliba (£25 million to play in the U23s) and we’re looking at blatant fraud of the highest level.

    That the Krankies didn’t even notice it going on is a damning indictment of their interest.

  11. Pete the Thirst says:

    Lol Rocky. I remember reading a few years back that Jack Wilchaire was going to be playing at the weekend after an injury. I saw him with a plaster cast around his ankle a few days previous.

    The B0ll0cks that the media and some ‘in the know’ people spout is amazing

    ‘RockyLives says: January 7, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    Pete But… but… my mate’s tradesman’s son’s friend say..It must be true!’

  12. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers Rocky, I like the way you always allow doubt and humility into your posts. Willian has not hit the ground running and I do think he was unfairly singled out. He was one of the best Chavs and they have been missing him. In the system we were playing he had very little support and was often isolated, but our 4-2-3-1 system should suit him much more. Let’s give him more time. My money is on him scoring and assisting some vital goals this season. I don’t think he is lazy or a mercenary and all that. Just a new guy trying to find form in a team in transition.

  13. RockyLives says:

    Agree with every word.

    That period of Arsenal mismanagement was a shabby disgrace.

  14. LBG says:

    Sorry all/most I have never been convinced the Willian deal was a good one for us anymore than Gallas or Luiz for that matter….. UNLESS , the current two were played in a different role to the ones used (so far) by the last and current manager.
    Luiz might have worked in front of a back line provided he had an effective ball winner alongside him to do the real work. Redundant now IMO, as Thomas is here (although even I would have him there if we must in place of X!!!). Nothing like as good in back line as Gabriel, Holding and Mari.
    While preaching the gospel according to E S-R some way back, I felt Willian might be able to teach Emile the central creative/all action and movement role of a non- Mesut No 10. Playing him wide is a waste in this phase of his career.
    I hope he comes good in the middle of the 3, but dont think Mikel will play him there, and certainly dont want the momentum gathered by the yoof to be squandered.
    My estimate of the last ex-Chelski player we had good value from was Georgeous George himself and/or John Hollins. We did of course, let them have one of the best of all time!!

  15. LBG says:

    Everything Mikel is saying about Saliba suggests there is still belief in a significant future for Arsenal. Seen nothing, other than friends of next door’s hairdressers aunt, to suggest Nice have a clause in loan contract to buy.
    Whether Saliba still believes himself in a future Arsenal dream is another matter!

  16. 1979Gunner says:

    I though Willian was an ‘ok’ signing, believing part of his role would be to educate Pepe and bring an experienced head to the team. It seems that Pepe is a hopeless case so he needn’t worry his head about that task. Time to cut the loses and sell Pepe. A ridiculous signing.

    The whole Saliba saga is a bit of a farce. He was the more experienced of his partnership with Fofana at St Etienne but still needed another year in France. Fofana didn’t and has settled well, which makes any defence of Saliba seem lightweight at best. Leicester have struck while we dithered in this regard before when they bought Caglar Soyuncu while we penny pinched. It brings back memories of Celtic’s purchase of Raphael Schidt. The Saliba affair has a scent sounding similar to the surname of Celtic’s Brazilian flop.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    Transfer deals since David Dein’s departure leave a lot to be desired.

  17. fred1266 says:

    Willian full of Sh**

  18. RC78 says:

    I am hoping that this season, the disappointing players land us the Europa League or FA Cup. I would love for Luiz, Xhaka, Pepe and Willian to drive us to victory and to then leave us on a high, if we see that there is not much point of keeping them for EPL glory…

  19. RC78 says:

    As of Willian – I think he clearly is a good EPL player and I am still at loss at why he has not really performed well consistently for us. I am hoping it is because he is still working on building on his physical shape

  20. RockyLives says:

    As an example of how players’ fortunes can change, it’s worth bearing in mind that last summer, after the FA Cup Final, we were all singing the praises of a starting 11 that included:
    All had been written off at various points in the previous year or two.

    In the semi final victory over Man City you can add Mustafi to that list.

  21. RC78 says:

    That is very true Rocky. I am still hoping for Pepe to turn things around…it s just that the hope is less than in August.

  22. 1979Gunner says:

    I hear what you’re saying RockyLivesOn regarding the players who won us the FA Cup last year, that’s why I dint engage in personal insults or off the cuff soundbites like ‘deadwood’, a disrespectful term bandied about certain players.

    The players you mention are all ok. But at their price (paid) they’d need to be. But they are not going to push for the title. Simple as that. Despite the outlay on fees. Which brings me to my biggest gripe with Arsenal, transfer policy. It’s a shambles.

    More examples this week, loan out a 19 year old defender we paid £27M for, and buy another for £900K.

    An interesting fact I read the other day (correct me if I’m wrong), Arsenal have never paid more than £15M to another English club?

    When we were after Zaha we should have bought him instead of Pepe.

    Our recruitment of players needs to improve.

  23. RC78 says:

    There is a guy called Luis Campos who has an excellent track-record with transfers at Lille and Monaco. The guy is a real gem-finder. He is available. How will he fit in with Edu and Arteta? Not sure…but for sure, he will be at a big club soon.

  24. Pete the Thirst says:

    @RC78 when you mention Campos then Lille & Monaco it makes me think of some very dubious business dealings. Both bought and sold heavily through super-agents, who it could be argued were either running those clubs for personal profit (Lille) or money laundering (Monaco). Throwing our lot back in with dodgy agents is the last thing we need now.

  25. LB says:

    So Arsenal have taken out a 124 million pound loan with the Bank of England, I sense a big signing, maybe even Messi, I am sure he would want to play for a big club before he hangs up his boots.

  26. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky. My issue with the whole Willian thing is that he doesn’t suit the right side attacking position, even though he played it predominantly for Chelsea.

    This is possibly due to 2 combined factors. Firstly we dont have the right forwards and we weren’t employing the right set up to make him effective from the right as he has been in recent years at Chelsea.

    William’s strike rate in his time at Chelsea has always been around the 1 in 7 point something. This means he has bot been required to fill a goal scoring hole, and has been more required as a creator of chances but generally Chelsea always carried a frontline aerial threat and number 10 types that had a goal threat.

    There he had options of whipping in aerial balls, putting in low crosses across the box and cut back balls for the number 10. Our forwards dont suit aerial balls and we had no number 10 to cut back to.

    The number 10 also helps find the wide player runs so Willian didn’t have anyone to find him with diagonal balls in our 3-4-3 set ups.

    My other feeling is that st his age he shouldn’t really be utilised as a wide player trying to skin and twist full backs inside out. Chelsea did often use him centrally as well and in fact if you look at many of his goals they come from when he was playing centrally.

    Everything says he should be playing exactly where ESR has for the last few games in that formation but he hasn’t been given this opportunity.

    He should be the perfect 2nd option to ESR so that we have quality cover in that role. He wont block ESR’s ascension to the role as the main man but offers quality experienced back up.

    When it comes to Willian and poor showings I am firmly in the camp that it has far more to do with the formations we have used than to so with the player himself suddenly becoming a poor player.

  27. Rasp says:

    Hi LB, I know your comment was tongue in cheek, but I see the £120m loan as rather worrying. The galling thing is that a large chunk of that would not be necessary if we’d been able to remove Ozil and 4 or 5 unproductive players from the wage bill.

  28. Rasp says:

    It’s worrying because in the big scheme of things it’s not a huge sum of money …. and proof if ever it was needed that Stan will not put his hand in his pocket.

  29. RC78 says:

    Hi Pete – Campos indeed is very good at finding talent and then cashing out on them but this was because he worked for Lille and Monaco. Let us not forget that he found Bernardo Silva, Mbappe, Fabinho, Celik, Pepe (hunhum)…but he also gave a new lease of life to players like Yilmaz, Fonte…If he joined AFC, he would be tasked with talent spotting but not necessarily for resell purposes…The point is that someone like him could help Edu and Arteta.

    As for the loan, I can’t believe we are asking for one to be honest. I can’t see us use this loan for a purchase.

    Last and not least, Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun is increasingly likely to see out the remaining six months of his contract and leave for free in the summer.

  30. RockyLives says:

    The loan seems like good business to me.

    Apparently the government is making these loans on incredibly favourable terms (interest rates way lower than you’d get in the financial markets) so it’s just a chance to get some cheap money.

    I think it’s simply an accounting/finance thing that many companies are taking up.

    And it has to be paid back in a year so it’s hardly a long term thing.

  31. Rasp says:

    Thanks for clarifying Rocky, I hadn’t researched it properly ….but it would be nice to reduce the wage bill 👍

  32. RockyLives says:

    Couldn’t agree more Rasp.

    Even more than the money, I think it will be good for squad morale if Ozil, Sokratis and one or two others are moved out.

    It must be weird training with senior pros every day who you know are never going to kick a ball in anger for us.

    Hopefully there’s some substance to the Fenerbahce/DC United stories around Ozil.

  33. Akinzo says:

    Perhaps, I am an incurable optimist but I have no doubt we will soon see the best of Willian when everything falls in place.
    I remember when the now iconic Henry joined us. He was totally out of place. His passes were wayward and he frittered away numerous chances but when he clicked……….
    Same can be said of Pepe. We don’t need to be buying new toys every TW because we are not rich enough to tow that path.
    How many ludicrously expensive players had the Manures bought and had to discard eventually. Is it not even debatable if the much touted Pogba had made any remarkable difference to then since he was brought on board? Can we afford to go same road?
    A little patience commrades.
    Definitely, some players need to go but not all been touted

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