PREMIER LEAGUE

Arsenal line up free agent Willian amid ‘big concern’ over finances

The Arsenal boss admitted concern about the finances at his disposal ahead of a crucial summer with the club hit hard by the pandemic.

Arsenal line up free agent Willian amid ‘big concern’ over finances
LAURENCE GRIFFITHS AFP

Arsenal are poised to sign Chelsea’s 31-year-old winger Willian who has been holding out for a three-year contract from his current club. The Guardian reports than while Frank Lampard would like to keep him at the club a long-term contract is unlikely, particularly considering the acquisition of forwards Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech already this summer.

Willian, who turns 32 in August, has been a consistent performer from the Blues throughout his time at the club and has contributed 20 goals in all competitions this campaign; 11 goals and nine assists. He add competition for places in the wide areas for Arsenal who already have Bukayo Saka, Nicolas Pépé, Reiss Nelson and Pierre-Emerick Aubamyeng, although the latter may be Barcelona-bound.

The Brazilian is represented by Kia Joorabchian who has facilitated a number of transfers involving Arsenal and who has his own box at the Emirates Stadium. He was involved in last summer’s deal to sign David Luiz, who is good friends with Willian after their time together at Stamford Bridge and for the national team.

Arsenal vs Watford

‘Big concern’ from Arteta for Arsenal rebuild

Wins against Liverpool and Manchester City in the final weeks of the Premier League season showed that progress has been made under the stewardship of Mikel Arteta but the squad remains a long way from being competitive at the top of the league.

The signing of Willian would undoubtedly add further depth and vital top level experience, but is unlikely to be transformative for the Gunners. City, Chelsea and Manchester United are all expected to spend this summer so Arsenal will need to strengthen intelligently to avoid losing ground.

Speaking after the victory over Liverpool the Arsenal boss said that he would need money to bring the squad closer to the level required. "[The gap] is massive. You only need to look at the difference between the two teams today," he said. "It's a big concern because you just have to see how they build those squads and there's no magic. You need to improve with quality, quality players to the squad and you need bigger squads to compete in this competition. That is the challenge."

Arsenal finished the season in 8th so will not qualify for the Europa League through league position. However victory in the FA Cup final on Sunday 1 August will give them another route into the competition and avoid missing out of European football for the first time in 25 years.

The Europa League is far less lucrative than the Champions League but still offers a valuable boost for clubs’ finances. Football finance expert Keiron O’Connor of the Swiss Ramble estimated the value of Arsenal’s run to the Europa League final in 2018/19 as around 38 million euros. Even this season, where they were eliminated in the last 32 by Olympiacos, was worth close to 22 million to the club.

Any revenue stream will be a welcome addition for Arsenal who have been hit hard by the pandemic. The Arsenal Supporters Trust produced a detailed analysis of the potential impact of Covid-19 and found that another season of playing games behind closed doors could leave the club with a 150 million euro loss for the year 2020-21. While that remains a worst-case-scenario for the moment, Arsenal will have to rely on free agents and cut-price deals if they are to challenge for a top four finish next season.