Every first-team player Arsenal sold or let go in 2021 – & how they’ve fared

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David Luiz in action for Arsenal against Olympiacos, Georgios Karaiskakisstadion, Athens, March 2021

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal rebuild has been a roller-coaster affair since his appointment in 2019, and one of his main tasks was to revamp the squad through signings and sales. A lot of senior players have moved on during his tenure, and three significant players were let go during the summer of 2021.

It was a busy summer of signings, with the likes of Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White and Martin Odegaard all joining the club, and the wage bill needed clearing as Arsenal failed to qualify for Europe for the first time in over 20 years.

Three senior players departed in the summer of 2021, but Arsenal only gained a fee for one of them. Here’s how they fared at their new clubs.

Joe Willock

The Hale-End academy graduate had spent the previous six months on loan at Newcastle, where he was a resounding success, scoring eight goals from central midfield.

Plenty of speculation followed, and eventually, Newcastle secured their man for around £26million.

Willock had less goalscoring success for most of his first full campaign on Tyneside, but is still a popular player, and made 31 appearances in all competitions.

As Newcastle prepare to splash the cash, the 22-year-old will have a battle on his hands to keep his starting spot alongside Bruno Guimaraes and Jonjo Shelvey.

Eddie Howe turned Newcastle’s fortunes around when he arrived at the club and singled out Willock for praise after a victory over Manchester United where the midfielder was immense.

“It wasn’t a brilliant performance from us but it was a wholehearted effort, commitment and a lot of hard work. It was epitomised by Joe Willock’s performance really, I thought he was immense physically,” Howe stated in March.

“That was highlighted by the tackle in the last few seconds of the game. He’s come all the way back [into the box]. I think that’s the hallmark of this team during this run, the effort and commitment from the players has been second to none.”

David Luiz

David Luiz was marmite for most of his Arsenal career, with many admiring his leadership and ability on the ball, but his occasional calamitous errors would cost his side dearly.

When his departure on a free transfer was announced, he was given a great farewell from the club despite only being there for two seasons, as he commanded the respect of the dressing room and most fans.

The 35-year-old returned to his native Brazil, joining Flamengo on a free transfer where he has made 32 appearances.

He’s still bringing comic relief to the pitch.

David Luiz during Flamengo's Brasileirao game agaisnt Sao Paulo at the Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 22 April 2022.

READ: David Luiz produced the miss of the year… & we love him even more now

Willian

Arguably one of the worst transfers Arsenal have ever made, Willian was a disaster in his one season in north London, angering the fans with consistently poor displays as Arsenal’s attack stuttered.

Willian was such a disappointment after his arrival from Chelsea that he and the club agreed to rip up his contract just one year into a three-year deal, and he returned to Brazil to join Corinthians.

The 33-year-old has scored one goal in 26 games upon his return to the club where he started his career, matching his Arsenal total, and has clearly not recovered from his nightmare year at the Emirates.

“I really thought a lot, together with my family and close people. Unfortunately, my time at Arsenal was not good, I wasn’t happy at the club,” Willian told TV Corinthians in September 2021.

“I don’t need to go into details, but I wasn’t happy and I thought that returning to Brazil was the best option.

“I studied some other opportunities, but I wanted to return to Corinthians, to my home, to be close to my family. It’s the club that projected me to the world, revealed me. The right time to come back was this.”


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