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Willian a quality signing but keeping Aubameyang crucial for Arsenal – Ashley Cole
Arsenal attacker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
by Daniel Lewis
14 Aug 2020, 16:46

Willian is a quality signing who will improve Arsenal's squad but tying down captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to a new deal remains vital to the Gunners' chances of success, says Ashley Cole.

Brazil forward Willian made the short hop to Emirates Stadium from Chelsea, ending a seven-year association with the Blues to pen a three-year deal at their London rivals.

It marks the first signing of the window for head coach Mikel Arteta ahead of what will be his first full season in charge, with the Spaniard – who led Arsenal to FA Cup final glory against Chelsea – aiming to improve on an eighth-place finish in the Premier League.

Having won five major honours during his time with the Blues, Willian has the sort of pedigree Arsenal are looking for to start competing among the top four again, and potentially earn continental success in the Europa League next term.

But Cole, who represented both clubs and won the Europa League with Chelsea during his glittering career, says convincing prolific striker Aubameyang to extend a contract that runs out next June remains an important target for Arteta.

"Firstly, you have to take your hat off to Willian," Cole told Stats Perform News. "He was a great servant for Chelsea. Staying at one club for seven years is not easy, but he's done that and has brought a lot of trophies to Chelsea.

"He performed very well across those seven years and has been their best player at times this season. At the end of the day, the club decided he can go and he has decided to go to Arsenal.

"A lot of Chelsea fans will wish him well because he was a great servant and now he's going to help to improve Arsenal's squad.

"Aubameyang is also a great player and has proved how good he is with his goal ratio this season.

"He's very important to Arsenal's success this season in the FA Cup and Arteta will of course want his top players to stay while adding some more quality.

"They've done that with the Willian signing, so Arteta will know he wants to keep him and get in better players to add to that squad. It's important they keep him but that's down to Arteta and Aubameyang."

Willian's decision to end his time at Chelsea may have been partially influenced by the big-money additions Frank Lampard has been making to his squad.

Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner arrived from Ajax and RB Leipzig, respectively, while Bayer Leverkusen's attacking midfielder Kai Havertz continues to be linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge.

Cole, now working at Chelsea as an academy coach, hopes to see exciting talent Havertz at Stamford Bridge as part of a new-look attack.

"Frank has had a brilliant first season and added two players, and maybe Havertz as well," he added. "Our attacking threat is amazing and the fans will be happy.

"Hopefully they can add Havertz to make their attacking threat even more potent. It is a young squad, with young players who have top quality and have played in top leagues being added.

"It's good to see them at Chelsea and hopefully they can quickly integrate into the team ahead of next season."

Chelsea may have lost the FA Cup final but did manage to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League in Lampard's maiden campaign as boss.

Former England international Cole is glad to see to see a generation he played with and against given a chance at the top level.

"As young coaches, you never know until you're put in these situations," he said.

"Arteta has done a great job in transforming Arsenal into playing good football, making them good to watch.

"Lampard has done the same with some young players. I think it's a good sign that owners and chairmen are giving young coaches a chance without much experience.

"But young coaches can't gain experience unless they are given an opportunity."