Willian to Arsenal defined by four difficult digits…

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Willian to Arsenal defined by four difficult digits…

The list of Premier League regulars (at least 20 appearances) who created chances more regularly than Willian last season contains just five names.

The list of Premier League regulars (at least 20 appearances) who created chances more regularly than last season contains 28 names, including – somewhat counter-intuitively – both Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard.

On that bare basis, signing Willian on a free transfer can be filed with aplomb under ‘no-brainer’. Willian provides creativity, provides width, provides quickness of feet and mind in small spaces, provides hard work, provides goals. It all makes sense until you talk four numbers.

Those numbers are three, 32, and 55.

The first and second are inter-linked. There would be no problem in offering a 29-year-old Willian a three-year contract. But 32? That sounds ridiculous. Except Chelsea made repeated offers of a two-year contract, so what’s in a year? Especially when Willian has literally just turned 32; this contract will not see him playing for Arsenal at the age of 35 unless there is a) another pandemic or b) he merits another contract.

You might also argue that there is no evidence of Willian slowing down. He has just scored and assisted more Premier League goals that an any point during his long Chelsea career; his productivity is actually way in advance of his first title-winning season of 2014/15. Whether he will still be performing at those levels in three years’ time is questionable, but age is far less a factor in 2020 than it was in 1990. Just ask Ronaldo. And should Willian help Arsenal back into the Champions League over the next two years, nobody will ask about his contributions in that final, farewell season of his contract.

And so to the details of that contract. It seems there will never become a point where we do not collectively throw our hands in the air and tut about footballers’ wages, particularly when they are out of contract. That figure of £220,000 a week is ‘astonishing’ but it’s also a little misleading, including as it does a signing-on fee, loyalty payments and ‘other bonuses’. That only translates to an ‘astonishing’ £220,000 a week if he earns those bonuses, which will mean that he is successful. His basic wage is actually lower than his basic wage at Chelsea.

Had the deal been concluded last week, had Arsenal matched his Chelsea wages over the next two years and had they paid £15m for a 31-year-old of his pedigree, the total outlay on his signing would have been very similar. And it would have all sounded perfectly reasonable. In fact, it would have sounded like an excellent deal. But a full 25 years after Bosman, we still struggle with the idea of those transfer fees being passed on to the footballers themselves. See the demonising of Alexis Sanchez for further evidence.

The final number is the most difficult to explain. It is undeniable that there is a certain vulgarity in spending large amounts of money on a footballer so soon after Arsenal announced their intention to make 55 people redundant. In short, it looks like a c***’s trick. But it is exactly the same c***’s trick that hundreds of companies will be recreating in other sectors across the country. It’s called capitalism. Should Arsenal have waited before announcing an expensive transfer? Possibly. But how long is long enough? Should they have not signed anybody all summer in honour of those 55 people who lost their jobs?

It’s certainly the hardest number to dismiss right now – it feels too neat that those 55 people exit just as one expensive man enters – but the uncomfortable truth is that barely anyone will remember that number if Willian reproduces his last Chelsea season in his first at Arsenal.

Sarah Winterburn

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Why Man Utd should avoid moves for Zaha and Jimenez…

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Why Man Utd should avoid moves for Zaha and Jimenez…

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Willian, agents and the loss of identity
Every club thinks they are special. That they do things in the right way. Arsenal, and our fans, are very quick to point to the Arsenal way and I fear that even though it was always BS, we are losing the soul of the club in how we are behaving in the transfer market.

Maybe I still have a hold over from the Wenger Stockholm Syndrome, where he had incredible disdain for agents, but to see Kia Joorabchian stack our deck with his clients. With him ensuring Willian, a man he gets 10% from, ….for 3 years (and an optional 4th!!)…for a 32 year old?! I know he is a free agent, but that is crazy money for someone that old.

Maybe I am still feeling my fingers are burnt from Silvestre, or Gallas, or countless other players who were never good enough for our rivals but apparently good enough for us. Can anyone explain to me, how 3 years from now, it would make sense to pay a 35 year old A QUARTER OF A MILLION POUNDS A WEEK! I see Willian becoming another financial albatross around our neck like Ozil is.

And don’t get me started on him. He says he cares for the club, so why was he in Turkey for the FA Cup final? If he trained how Arteta wanted, he’d get in the side.He wouldn’t have mysterious back pains all the time. Look at the rehabilitation of players such as Xhaka and Mustafi. That interview he did was utterly self serving and apologies if I have no sympathy for him.

An interesting summer awaits. I really hope that Arteta did request Willian, I hope he has very specific plans for him, because if we have bought another mate of Edu, Raul and Kia, while the rest of the squad suffers, I expect us to continue to stagnate.
John Matrix AFC (Sorry for the incoherent ramble)


The secret is out the bag, Willian has joined Arsenal, now Chelsea were never going to offer him that 3 year deal he wanted, it just is not our club’s policy anymore, you hit 30 and you are only offered a 1 year deal, sometimes a 2 year deal if you are very lucky, even club legends such as Frank Lampard and John Terry weren’t gifted with 3 year deals, anyway, looking into those numbers were quite eye watering:

– £220k per week
– 3 year contract with option for a 4th
– Rumoured £11m signing on fee
– Only Mesut Ozil is on more money per week than Willian

I had to read the article this morning again to double check that this wasn’t a huge major signing for Arsenal, not a 32 year old winger who on his day is a top player but quite often it is not his day, to become the club’s second highest earner is just ridiculous for a 32 year old, not sure how Arsenal fans feel about it all, but I would be extremely frustrated at this expenditure.
Mikey, CFC


Whilst I agree with Tom, Walthamstow that Arsenals transfer policies, especially in the wake of the redundancies in the scouting network, is entirely justified, his dig at Willian is a bit off.

Firstly, where did he get 200k from? Most reliable sources have the wages at 100k which isn’t too bad. 3 years is one year too long but its not an awful contract for what is a good premier league player.

Secondly, he has been one of the most creative and productive players in the league. In the current season, 9 goals and 7 assists is a good return, 2.1 key passes is better than any of our current squad. 2 dribbles is good. Whether he can keep up these numbers at 34 remains to be seen but he would give us more options and creativity.

Finally, whether Arteta and Ornstein are playing the PR game, apparently Arteta really wants him. Based on what we’ve seen so far from Arteta I’m willing to trust him until proven wrong.

Now if we go and sign 5 more players from the same agent, then we can start seriously worrying. Willian doesn’t suit our historic transfer policy of youth but he is a good players with premier league experience. Not a bad start to the window.
Rob A (not the signing I would have made to be honest but let’s see what happens) AFC


No to Zaha
Kind of agree in the morality or spending £100m plus in the current climate, though, you know – capitalism.

What I do take issue with is United then slinking around the same amount on Zaha and Jimenez. You baulk at paying £100m on Sancho but want to spend the same in 2 players who don’t represent long term options and not necessarily upgrades on the current bunch.

Like most people, I really like Jimenez and £60m is a fair price to pay. But a) Wolves will want more and b) he’s 30 next year and c) has very little flexibility in terms of where he can play. A 29/30 year old is at the stage in their career where he wants to play week in week out, this he represents a blocker to Greenwood. Not sure it makes total sense to sign him now with Martial, Greenwood and Rashford banging in the goals. He seems a tactical signing for a side that needs a striker to be able to compete for the title, United aren’t near that and should be looking long term. As much as I’d love to seem him hitting those volleys in a red shirt.

Zaha is just a big fat no from me I’m afraid, I can’t see palace accepting £40m and he’s not even worth that amount for various reasons. He’s not an upgrade on and is older than any of the front three we currently have. He’s been at the club before and failed (alright, maybe not his fault but doesn’t sound like he approached it in the right way either). He’s got no European experience to speak of. He’s also Ivorian so could potentially be missing every other year. Again, just not a long term option and he’s unlikely to get significantly better in the next 4 years. I’d be actively disappointed if United signed him. I’d rather they went back for Depay!

I want United to sign Sancho if they’re going to spend big money this year. It’s a long term signing that improves us immediately, he’s homegrown, he’s proven in a top league for a top club and he’s already mates with one of our key players. He just fits the number 7 jersey properly. But if we’re not going to spend big I’d rather we went for youth or focused on getting a long term replacement for Matic and Mata. No guarantee that’s cheap either I supposed…
Ash Metcalfe


Sancho ‘vanity project’
Okay Ed enough is enough go and sit in your office, close the door and let people more qualified than you work on the transfers. You are an embarrassment confidently waving your tiny cock about telling all and sundry how big your wad is whilst being unable to perform in the market, gross incompetence is not a good look for the head of such a large entity as Manchester United. Walk away from your Sancho vanity project, bring in players who want to play for United and most of all shut the hell up you vacuous bell end.
Paul Murphy, Manchester


Dear Football365,

I was surprised to see Ed Woodward’s transfer strategy being described as “embarrassing”, when that more appropriately applies to the Veruca Salt-like behaviour of some of their fans, such as Mark in this morning’s mailbox. The bit that really caught my attention was the “£40m on the table for Wilfried Zaha, take it or leave it”, as though transfers are handled in the manner of a shouty wide boy in a pin-striped suit and pointy shoes playing to the cameras during haggling week on the Apprentice. Fairly certain Palace would say “we’ll leave that thanks”; given that they have to give 25% of the fee to Manchester United, this would mean selling their best player for £30m – whatever your opinion of Zaha, a viable replacement for him would cost more than that.

Maybe, now the country’s in a new recession, supporters of certain football teams could adopt the attitude that their clubs can’t simply buy them new toys whenever they want one, or just because they’re bored of all the toys they’ve currently got.
Ed Quoththeraven


​Mark says the Dortmund’s £110 million asking price is “extortionate” because the world is on fire. Is Sancho some kind of basic life necessity good that people will die if they don’t get? Oh noes, someone call the government for market price manipulation! Think of the rich multimillion clubs making slightly less money this year!

Dortmund has no obligations to sell Sancho’s contract to Man United or anyone else. They got him under contract and contrary to what fans like to moan when their players try to move out, contracts do mean something. Players can pressure the club and protest but ultimately the clubs have the final say. They offered Sancho a raise and seemingly he accepted and is happy with it.

(Before anybody claims slavery, players always have the option to buy out their own contracts, but they have to pay back their earnings plus some damages – nobody put a gun to their heads when signing them – and they get absurds levels of money for kicking a ball around and having lots of leisure timem)

I think Man United are right that £110 million is absurd in the current market, but guess what, things that are in high demand and short supply are not cheap. He is Dortmund’s player and they go on their terms. You want to buy something that they are reluctant or not desperate to sell, be prepared to pay a HUGE premium for it. Man United have no “right” to get a player for cheap.

And I’m a Man United fan by the way, Dortmund are just acting logically here. They want him and can afford not to sell him, so make it worth their time.

If they want to penny pinch, maybe they should focus on developing the other young players they got for cheap instead and the risks and work that come with it? At the very least maybe find a club that’s more desperate financially so you would have more leverage in the negotiations.
Yaru, Malaysia


In response to Mark about Man United’s embarrassing transfer strategy.

What have United done, other than suggest an interest in Sancho months ago ?  Has Woodward or Solskjaer come out and said anything in public that is embarrassing?  Solskjaer has flat batted a few questions and not given any indication that United are deep in discussions (“I have nothing to add on that subject”, is his general answer).  Everything you know about the transfer has been created by the tabloids…… The fee was 120m apparently, then United offered 70 (says who ?!), then United wont pay over 100 (says who?), then United say because of covid etc he’s only worth 70 (said who from United?), then United dont want to pay all up front (says who?, its just something that Dortmund have done in other transfers in the past, so it could fit…….)  Last week, according to the press, United had agreed personal terms on a 350k per week deal (really?) and it was imminent, but barely a week later someone else says that actually he’s been offered a pay cut (poor fella) – do you think either of those journos have the first clue about what is actually going on behind the scenes ?  About a week ago, Dortmund set a deadline of the 10th August – was there any response in the press from any United employees?  No.  You’re basing your “embarrassing” transfer strategy on mindless clickbait drivel from the tabloid press. , it comes with the territory….

Actually, United are sitting totally quiet – have Ed or Ole said anything to the press about anyone ?  This is the only thing that Woodward has been quoted as saying in the press recently:

“The ongoing disruption from the pandemic – and the economic pressures it has created – has shown why it is so important for football clubs to focus on their financial stability,” he wrote in the programme for the West Ham game.  “We are fortunate to have a strong and resilient commercial business which has supported long-term investment in our team. That will continue, albeit with extra caution in the coming months as we navigate our way through this uncertain period.”

It sounds like the CEO of any large company – he’s hardly calling out particular names is he ?
Ben (I’d love to see Sancho at United, dont see it happening, but we’re going to read A LOT of mindless, baseless back and forth to no avail over the next 4-6 weeks), MUFC

(PS – Given how good he is, and how quickly he’s improving, how and why did Pep let him go? )


With each passing year I fear it’s simply impossible to avoid becoming more and more cynical, and transfer season may be the nadir of football. And Manchester United, under big Ed, the worst culprit.

One must always remember what Ed’s job is. It is to keep the board happy. It is not to play good football, or win things, or even fill up Old Trafford when that was a thing. It is to deliver shareholder returns in such a way as to best satisfy the board. Hence the special dividends to the offspring, for example.

Manchester United have, perhaps, the 10th best squad in world football. You can talk about spend all you want, but I’d put them somewhere around there. They’ve not won the league for getting on a decade. They’ve not won the Champions League for getting on 15 years. And yet, what percentage of days would your esteemed website not feature a transfer story on the frontpage involving United? What club is featured most heavily in rumours? In twitter tags, and google searches? That’s right, the relatively mediocre 10th best squad from northern England.

You think that is by accident? You think Ed is embarrassed? I think it’s his plan. He keeps United in the headlines, everyday, for months, by doing nothing more than tossing a few crumbs to his favourite journalists once a week, and watching the fourth estate spin itself in circles. Why would you sign two players in 3 days, quietly, efficiently and without fuss like City, when you could string out Sancho headlines for months? And then not even spend a dime! Who cares if City’s players are addressing key gaps, fit in a planned system, can now join the team and will likely deliver trophies – I bet you’d already forgotten that Spanish winger’s name.

United is not being run to win at football. That’s not the way to maximise profits, unless you strike gold which – after 3 decades of trying and failing – Liverpool have. United are essentially an entertainment company, and are you not entertained*?
Ryan, (*by transfer sagas, obviously not the on field stuff)


I’m so bored of Sancho stuff.

A mixture of media just making stuff up out of the ether and United being run by a combination of uncaring Americans, a balding shyster who I assume tries to buy players by requesting them on Linkedin and a vastly over promoted Norwegian poodle on a short lead mean that it’s all utterly pointless to discuss.

Sancho will cost over £100 million and United have the money.  If they offer it they’ll get him.

They shouldn’t, though. They should buy Grealish or Havertz.
Tim Sutton


Football without fans is noth….actually ok?
Anyone else really enjoying the world cup vibes of the end of season European finals and think this is a model that Uefa should really consider going forward?

Obviously it completely disenfranchises fans and means they have to give up time and money to watch their teams abroad whilst massively favouring TV audiences. So given that literally everything that football authorities have done over the preceding couple of decades has done that anyway, what’s to stop them doing it in future?
Simon, London


Players and contract negotiation
Something has really been bugging me and seeing it come up again in the Thursday mailbox has inspired me to write in. Jaimie Kaffash talks about Ozil “…waiting before the club was at its most vulnerable to sign the contract.” which is a roundabout way of saying that most common of annoying expressions- players ‘holding the club to ransom’. I think it probably first became common around the time Rooney was renegotiating his contract at Manchester United back in the day but it still crops up very regularly .

I’m sorry but unless the word ‘ransom’ has completely lost all meaning, this way of framing the issue is laughable. If a player makes a salary demand that the club doesn’t want to meet then the club has the right to refuse and the player can either lower it or join another club. Both sides have power and both sides have freedom to make decisions. Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything and each side has the right-and indeed obligation- to maximize what they can get out of the discussions. But somehow this has frequently become re-framed as poor, defenseless clubs having their arms twisted and left with no option but to award big contracts while players become the bad guys consumed by greed. It’s bizarre.
Turiyo Damascene, Kigali, Rwanda


£20m transfer list
I had a lot of fun reading through . Obviously there were a few corking transfers in there which had propelled the acquiring club to the next level – Van Dijk, Danny Ings, and Raul Jimenez to name a few. However, what struck me was the number of utterly disastrous one. I took it upon myself to figure out which was the worst and quickly realised that there are two categories:

(1) A transfer where the player has already left the club and consequently has no chance of coming good for said club; and
(2) where the transfer is still currently at the club and stinking the place out, but importantly still has a chance to change things.

After pondering on it for a while I think the worst in category (1) is Drinkwater. 1 goal in 12 appearances for £35m makes Shevchenko look like the best piece of business since Noah took out flood insurance. Though Liverpool paying £20m for Markovic will never stop being funny. While the worst in category (2) has to be Ndombele though honourable mentions for Kepa and Joelinton. What do other people think?
Oliver, London


Enjoyed reading through the list of £20m players. Even better to have it listed in chronological order rather than price order as it allows you to see the transfer history of a particular club. It got me thinking as to the best and worst big money signing streaks of particular clubs.

The rules are, the streak must be of 5 consecutive signings, with all signings being over £20m. I’ve not looked through other clubs in detail, so can anyone beat this for Liverpool? The worst ever streak…

Andy Carroll – £35m
Stewart Downing – £20m
Adam Lallana – £25m
Lazar Markovic – £20m
Dejan Lovren – £20m

While Lallana and Lovren had their uses at times, neither could be described as a great signing, especially as £20m was a lot more money when they were bought. Carroll, Downing and Markovic were all terrible. If any clubs has done worse than that, well done (or whatever the opposite of ‘well done’ is)

In terms of Liverpool’s best run, I’d go for this:

Sadio Mane – £34m
Georginio Wijnaldum – £25m
Mohamed Salah – £34.3m
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – £35m
Virgil van Dijk – £70m

Four crucial elements of the Premier League and Champions League winners. The Ox still ranks as a good signing, has just been a bit unlucky with injuries. Some of those players would now be worth double, even triple what they were signed for.

So, has your club had a worse or better transfer streak?
Mike, LFC, London


Hender…like why?
It’s late in the afternoon, just finishing up work and I pop on to F365 to read Nick (Is Rice a DM or a CB?) mailbox contribution regarding the Trent / Aaron debate.

“TAA is the best RB in the world at the moment, and could end up being England’s best ever RB. He should play there, but for TAA and Chilwell to bomb forward, England do need that DM, particularly as some of our better CM options are quite attacking. Someone mobile, good engine, fast, defensively aware, positional sense, and timing in the tackle, attacking threat not so important That sounds like AWB to me”  yes… yeah wait what? AWB in defensive midfield. Does the current captain of the premier league champions and  favourite for player of the season not play in a DM role? A right back in defensive midfield… just why?
Mark, Dublin


Frank Lampard
It’s hard to pin down the issue with Frank Lampard but, to me, he comes across as the type who loves to have a bit craic and ‘banter’ with the lads. But then he gets some mild slagging and goes nuclear. That’s the best way I can describe it. Its not that he takes himself too seriously, it’s that he wants everyone else to take him seriously but he won’t do the same for them.

One more quick question. I was watching a YouTube video of Totti goals, as you do, and noticed how often the opposition fans applauded his goals due to their sheer quality. Its not something that happens in England. Why not?
Kev (Totti was magnificent)


Another reply for Johnny Nic…

I noticed already two other replies to Johnny Nicholson’s latest rant about the state of football considering hiring ex-players as manager in an overly negative tone implying it’s some sort of symptom of PFM culture. Despite the other replies, I felt compelled to add a few things to the conversation.

Let’s take four easiest examples as top players getting manager gigs with relatively short experience: Lampard at Chelsea, Pep at Barcelona, Pirlo at Juventus and Zidane at Real Madrid.
– All of the clubs are financially huge with a proven track record of being ruthless especially considering managers. Would any of these clubs appoint their ex-player as a reward for their playing career and for sentimentality? Is Johnny really suggesting that? If not, there must be some other reason clearly then. Only reason I can personally think of, they assume those managers will be successful. Two of them have already proven it and the third hasn’t had a bad start either. So maybe certain ex-players actually are smart choices after all?
– If we look at the reasoning behind the appointments. Johnny brings out respect for ex-players. That might be true and especially I guess in Zidane’s (and perhaps originally in Pep’s) case that might have played a part. Lot of world class players but with big egos in the dressing room and Zidane strikes me as a person who oozes authority with his mere presence and achievements. But overall it’s an extremely narrow view. If we consider the fact that like within other professions, some individuals are smart and some not, they have probably stood out as ones who can understand the game. Or is Johnny suggesting that all players are thick? Moreover, they have learned tactically not only playing with the same level of players they are supposed to manage now, but from top managers during their career. Compare it with somebody who “rises through the ranks” managing lower divisions. They haven’t had lessons and tactical instructions from the best coaches, trainers and managers for 10-20 years. It must count for something if you actually listen.
– Not rule, but very common. Most of these ex-managers were considered as genius midfield players. Pep, Zidane, Pirlo, Lampard (who was never that great technically but read the game better than anybody being in the right place at the right time), Arteta, Xavi (for whom was offered Barcelona manager position). Maybe what partly made them great players – midfield generals – makes them great managers as well? They can read the game, they know what should be done, who the ball should be passed to etc. Even other ex-player managers such as Gattuso or Simeone had to use their brains a lot to position and read the game even though they were mainly considered as “work horses”.

I don’t like some aspects of modern football either and the uneven playing field etc. but it just sometimes seems Johnny is so fed up with big clubs, he projects the negativity to all areas of football. No matter if it’s football restarting after covid or generally just men playing football compared to women or the technical level of current footballers. Cheer up, it’s a cliche, but I really used to enjoy reading your articles.

Matti Katara, Helsinki 


RB Leipzig
Am I the only person concerned we’re all living in a giant football manager save after seeing RB Leipzig advance to the champions league semis? Rapid advancement through the leagues, making great money in buying low and selling high and now well placed to win the big one.

Or they just have loads of money.
Seán, Dublin


shows why Atlético might get to a European final but never win it.

At some point you have to take a risk and attack and go for the win rather than hoping the opposition make a mistake.

I guess Chelsea did it, amusing that it wasn’t under Mourinho’s stewardship (but still his style) and Mourinho did it with Inter Milan, except in both cases it was more of a counter attacking strategy – catching on the break – than the Simeone ‘catanaccio’ which simply looks stifle everything that is fun on a game. So glad Leipzig won.

Even though not a City fan, at least they will play some really attractive football, so hoping they win tonight.
Paul McDevitt

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