Arsenal praised for snubbing Philippe Coutinho transfer to sign star who is ‘a safer bet’

Arsenal are right to sign Willian but ignore a deal for Philippe Coutinho because the Chelsea winger is a “safer bet” believes club legend Martin Keown.

Reports have indicated that despite interest in Coutinho, the cash-strapped Gunners will only sign Willian rather than add both of the pair to their squad.

Willian is expected to become an Arsenal player imminently having agreed a three-year deal to swap Stamford Bridge for the Emirates.

The Brazilian will play no part for Chelsea in their Champions League showdown with Bayern Munich tonight (8pm) having been left out of the travelling 23-man squad.

It’s thought Willian, who turns 32 tomorrow, will sign a deal worth £100,000 a week in basic salary with performance-related bonuses potentially improving his pay.

But once the winger is added to Mikel Arteta’s squad, Arteta is expected to focus on making additions to the centre of his defence and in central midfield rather than adding attacking midfielder Coutinho.

The Barcelona playmaker’s stock has fallen considerably since his £142million switch to the Nou Camp from Liverpool in January 2018.

He will be in the Bayern squad against Chelsea this evening but the Bavarians have ignored the option to sign him permanently once his season-long loan ends.

And Barca have shipped the 28-year-old around Europe as they seek to find a club to take Coutinho off their hands.

But Keown insists that he’s happy Arsenal are preferring Willian to his fellow South American.

“Coutinho has been linked with virtually everybody and seems, if I am honest, a bit unsettled,” ex-centre-back Keown told the Daily Mirror.

“I think Willian is a safer bet. He’s in the capital, he knows the Premier League very well and he’s a top performer. I think it’s a huge loss for Chelsea.

“I think that’s a fantastic bit of business. I have always been a real admirer of Willian.

“When I saw what he has been doing this year at Chelsea with his free-kicks and penalties, he’s so reliable.

“He has had his misfortunes with [Eden] Hazard being there. Sometimes he has had to play second-fiddle. Now he is fighting for a place with [Christian] Pulisic.

“I know there is a discussion over two or three years [contract], but I think he would be a really good acquisition for Arsenal.

“He comes in with a wealth of experience and I like his work ethic.

“He is someone who will always give you 100 per cent and the right type of player to go into what is a really young Arsenal dressing room.”

European football expert Julien Laurens said on ESPN’s Gab and Juls Podcast: “I believe the Willian deal is pretty much done. Three years. It’s a good debate, he turns 32 later this month, is it too long of a deal?

“Let’s not forget there was a time Arsene Wenger when was there that he would only give a one-year deal to the over-30s and now you give three years to a 32-year-old, three years to [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang, who is 31.

“I think the influence that David Luiz has had on the younger players in that dressing room is very important. Maybe they think Willian will be the same.

“But what you did with Luiz was you gave him a one-plus-one deal, which I thought was the right thing to do at the time last summer.

“I don’t think Willian is even a a two-plus-one, so you had one way of doing things with the older players then you change completely to give contracts to somebody who is 32. Let’s hope it works for them.”

“For Coutinho, no. They [Barcelona] tried last summer, they tried again in January. Arsenal said no both times.

“Even if [Mesut] Ozil leaves – I don’t think he will anyway – I don’t see how this one could happen.”

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