London (AFP) – Mikel Arteta has tipped Willian to play a crucial role in driving Arsenal forward as the Gunners boss insisted he had no qualms about signing him on a long-term deal at the age of 32.
Arteta landed the Brazil winger on a three-year contract last month after his deal at Chelsea expired.
Willian won two Premier League titles during seven years at Stamford Bridge but moved across London on a free transfer, with Chelsea unwilling to offer the multi-year contract he desired.
Arteta is desperate to improve on last season’s eighth-placed finish in the Premier League, Arsenal’s lowest position since 1995, and he believes Willian could be a key man.
“With all the conversations I had with him, the thing that stands out is his ambition and his willingness to be the man who can drive this club forward and be a big part of it,” Arteta said on Friday.
“He has very special qualities. He has experience in this league and if there is something with him, he is always available.
“He’s a player that doesn’t miss football matches. Last season at Chelsea you could see the amount of games he played even after the coronavirus.”
Arteta, whose side open their Premier League campaign at Fulham on Saturday, said he had no concerns about bringing in a player in his 30s.
“We need a balance in this squad,” he said. “We have some really young talent and they need some experienced players that can just put their shirts on and (produce) a star performance.
“This will evolve. It will be up to him and how much we help him as well with our environment, if he’s able to perform at that level for another three years. I think he has a great chance to achieve that.”
Arteta, who believes Willian can play in a number of positions, claimed it was “impossible” to sign a similar type of player in his early 20s.
“We need some players that can hit the ground straight away and we can be more patient with others,” he said.
“If we want to develop other players well they need top players around them because they will increase their performance and their value.”
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