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Arsenal’s Likely Summer Departures Part One: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

By Mac Johnson (Senior Writer)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Originally a Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western—I mean talk about bad taste people, come on now—it’s become a relatively popular catchphrase to describe things that fit into categories of three. The set of criteria for such a list, as determined by what is in truth a pretty horrific film, is as follows.


Good means good, that much is obvious. Bad, like it’s positive counterpart, means bad. Again, pretty simple. But Ugly is where the confusion lies. According to the film, Ugly applied to a Mexican bandit named Tuco, who’s just as evil as the bad guy of the film, a man conveniently named Angel Eyes, but because he’s ugly, both in spirit and in looks, is shown to be even worse than the film’s main antagonist.


Now don’t get me wrong, most five-year-old’s could spot the Clint Eastwood undertones there (read, racism), so for the sake of avoiding that issue, I’ll ignore that interpretation. But when perusing the internet for something less likely to make me seem a bigot, I stumbled upon the interpretation that ugly can mean a lot of different things. For the sake of your brains avoiding the slow and painful process of melting into goo, I won’t bore you with the details. But I will highlight one.


My personal favorite: that the term “Ugly” refers to something outside of the box, something that can’t be described on a scale of “Good” to “Bad,” or by the arbitrary boundaries the writer (yeah, it’s still me, than’s for reading this far in) sets on those terms. Everything clear to you? No? Well, color me shocked.


This is the part where I get to talk to you beautiful readers. My favorite. For all of you who are wondering how in God’s saggy left ________ this relates to Arsenal, I’m getting there. Basically, as my idiot brain often does, I was looking for a creative way to frame this article, which centers around the departure of five current Arsenal players. I would classify each of them as a veteran player, and most of them I can imagine having a decent role at the club, were the circumstances different. And yes, their wishes for departure, while mostly uncertain, were also documented by the Athletic a few weeks back. Just so you know I’m not entirely blowing smoke.


So, for the purpose of this article, I’ll run through a good, a bad, and an ugly for each of our nearly departed Gunners. The good will describe their best moment in an Arsenal shirt, the bad their worst, and the ugly will pertain to the reason they have to leave, or wish to leave. Whether they should go or stay doesn’t matter here. I’m trying to face the ugly truth (haha get it) that not everybody is happy at Arsenal at the moment. On to a rather somber number one.

Willian


HA! You thought I was serious. Not quite yet lovely readers, not quite yet. I certainly won’t be upset about Willian leaving, but he still must be recognized. If briefly. Sorry not sorry for all of you who were actually hoping he’d work out… are there any of you out there? Actually do hit me up on Twitter. Shameless plug for the culture.


Willian’s Best Arsenal Moment

This was far more difficult than I had originally envisioned. And no, not because he’s been poor and there’s nothing I can think of. More because I’m stuck between two equally juicy options. He had a wonderful performance against Fulham in his first ever showing in an Arsenal shirt, but his subsequent level of general s**t has dulled that somewhat.


No, I think the most important thing he’ll leave behind is his legacy. Crazy, right? But genuinely, I think it’s quite simple. No more Chelsea rejects. No more stopgaps. Really commit ourselves to a rebuild.


Veteran options can be an excellent asset to provide a cap-off to an already bulging squad. Bringing in experienced, talented players who won’t be able to play every game, but who will be able to teach youngsters and lead the dressing room? That’s a great option… just not for anybody trying to do anything other than win a title.


I’m not claiming we should invest further in youth prospects, because we have them, or blow the budget on superstars. But if Willian has taught us anything—moreso than just about any Arsenal player I can remember—is that smart recruitment, with an eye on tactics and age, in order to build a cohesive squad, is literally the only way forwards for this Arsenal team.


So thank you Willian. Thank you for cementing, hopefully permanently, the definite knowledge that we shouldn’t keep investing in players like you, because it doesn’t work anymore. Sokratis didn’t work. Lichsteiner didn’t work. Mkhitaryan didn’t work. Özil didn’t work, nearly as soon as he penned his new contract. Auba has only started to find form, but has struggled since penning a new deal, illness aside. David Luiz… will be answered in Part 2. And Willian, frankly, has not worked. Time to stop.


Willian’s Worst Arsenal Moment

This one was a bit easier. It’s the circumstances of his signing.


In the same week as we signed Willian, Arsenal dropped 55 workers that the board declared “redundant” out on the street, sacked our entire scouting department, and got rid of Gunnersaurus. A week later, the director of our club was sacked. And yet, we still found the funds to pay Willian £192.308k per week. For reference? That’s exactly £10m per year, or $14.1m for all my American brethren. And that’s without signing bonuses, agents fees, any of the fees stipulated by his contract tacked on. Silly, silly, silly.


I tweeted this at the time.

Shit. Wrong Tweet. Lemme rewind real quick. Aha. Here it is.

One more for good luck? Yup

It’s not too bold of a claim to say he never should have been signed at all. But that’s what I said above so let me say one more thing. I did take his signing seriously, at first. He came off his best ever season at Chelsea, and looked hungry against Fulham. But his categorical failure in the next 50-some-odd games has me convinced that it’s more of a recruitment problem as much as it is a Willian problem.


The Reason Willian Has To Leave

Because he’s not happy. If he wanted to stay at the club, that would be one thing. I could continue my raging agenda against him without a second thought. Hell, I still will, most likely. But I will never begrudge a professional athlete their happiness. If he’s not enjoying his time at the club, he should leave.


To be fair, it’s also much better for us in the long run. We free up a juicy £10-15m in transfer fees and wages, depending on how we use the money we’ve spent on him—maybe, ah, rehire some of those redundancies—but now we’re actually rebuilding the backroom along with the squad, the money should be reinvested in that rebuild. It should not not NOT go back to Stan and KSE, because we don’t owe him a dime at this point. How you manage a club through the aforementioned pandemic and still turn a hefty profit margin on your ownership, all while laying off workers and departments, and miring the club in the mid-table, mystifies me. But we’re talking about Willian at the moment.


A departure is best for the club and best for him, not to mention my mental health on a weekly basis. Hey, it might even demonstrate a dislike of working with Kia Joorabchian, which we could certainly use. But that’s another agenda I don’t necessarily need to bring up here and now. I think this might be the happiest note we’ll end one of these on.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Originally a Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western—I mean talk about bad taste people, come on now—it’s become a relatively popular catchphrase to describe things that fit into categories of three. The set of criteria for such a list, as determined by the pretty tragic film, is as follows. xxxg, I think splitting it might be better. So I’ll bless you with a three-parter, because the one thing you all need is defin

This is me signing off!


See you for Part 2. Much love!

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