Mikel Arteta has insisted that Arsenal have not taken a massive gamble in handing 31-year-old Willian a three-year-deal. The Gunners will give the Brazilian, captured as a free agent from Chelsea this summer, his debut at Fulham.
The Brazil international, who in his seven year spell at Chelsea won five major honours including two Premier League titles, left Stamford Bridge in the summer when he was not handed the two year deal he wanted.
Arsenal went one better, and Arteta has declared the deal will be a winner for his club.
The Gunners manager, who faces a defensive injury crisis going into today’s season opener at Craven Cottage, with five defenders ruled out, said: “In the conversations I had with Willian, what stood out is his ambition and his willingness to be the man who can drive this club forward.
“Willian has very special qualities. He has experience. And he is always available. He is a player that does not miss matches.
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“Last season at Chelsea he played 47 matches – he was the one with some of the most minutes there.
“I am not concerned with his age. We need a balance. We have some young talent – and they need experienced players that they can put their shirts on and start performing.”
Former Spain midfielder Arteta retired at the age of 34 after five years at Arsenal. But, he said: “Willian is much better than me, much fitter than me!
“Don’t compare him with me – I am a bad example. To sign that type of player at 20 or 21 years old for us at the moment is impossible. We have to adapt. We need players that can hit the ground straight away, and then we can be more patient with other ones as they develop. “
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez is in talks with Aston Villa over a £20 million move. Arteta added: “We have a keeper with Emi who for ten years has been so patient.
“He has made some difficult choices to earn the place he is at at the moment. Since I gave him the opportunity here he has been superb. His performance increased dramatically and he was key in our success to win the titles.
“It is good problem to have to deal with in a position that only one can play. Long term it is more difficult. This is why we are having these conversations.
“Both goalkeepers want to know their role. At the end of the day it is one position to fill, and the other one has to support the No1 and the one who is playing 100%. If you are not able to do that you can not be part of our squad and you should not be here.”
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