Willian explains why he struggled at Arsenal after leaving north London after just one year


    Fulham winger Willian
    Willian is back in London after joining Fulham (Picture: Getty)

    Former Arsenal winger Willian has opened up on his struggles in north London, admitting playing a season behind closed doors ‘without the buzz of the crowd’ had a huge impact on him.

    After seven successful years at Chelsea, the Brazil international headed across the capital to join Arsenal on a free transfer in 2020.

    While he registered two assists on his debut, Willian would leave the Gunners after just one year, mutually terminating his contract with the club after what he described as ‘the worst time that I had lived as a professional’.

    After a brief spell back in Brazil with Corinthians, the 34-year-old was back in London to join Fulham on transfer deadline day, providing an assist in the 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest last Friday.

    Reflecting on his time at Arsenal, Willian has revealed he struggled for motivation in training despite leaving on good terms with Mikel Arteta.

    The 2020-21 Premier League campaign was largely played out with no fans in attendance due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    And the Brazilian says the empty stadiums took its toll on his game.

    Fulham winger Willian
    Willian left Arsenal by mutual consent (Picture: Getty)

    ‘I think I’m maybe the only player who has done something like this,’ Willian told the Athletic, recalling his Arsenal exit.

    ‘Any other player in my situation would have stayed until the end of the contract and kept picking up the money. But I’m not like this. Money is not the most important thing in the world. I have to feel good, to feel motivated to go to training. I wasn’t having that there so I decided to leave.’

    On his struggles at the club, he added: ‘For most of the season, we were playing without fans (because of COVID-19).

    ‘I didn’t see Arsenal fans. Maybe I needed to feel the buzz of the crowd, that it was something I missed. It was a difficult moment not just for me, but for everyone in the world. To play without fans at a new club is not easy.

    ‘On my last day there, I spoke with the manager Mikel Arteta. I thanked him a lot for what he had done for me, for bringing me to Arsenal. I just wished him all the best.

    ‘He is a good manager and I have great respect for Arsenal. They are doing well, they have good players. They can achieve good things this season.’

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