The winger finally contributed an assist this week after a season of mostly empty performances
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta believes Willian is finally starting to show why the club invested so heavily in the former Chelsea winger.
Arteta admitted the Gunners “were expecting many more things” when signing the Brazilian on a free transfer in the summer.
Willian, who is reportedly being paid about £200,000 per week, recorded a mid-week Europa League assist against Benfica, a feat Arteta is optimistic can become a confidence-boosting moment for the player.
What did Arteta say about Willian?
“I was really pleased with Willian on Thursday,” Arteta told reporters. “He totally deserves some credit because of the way he trains every day and he is trying.
“In games now you can see that he is starting to produce what we think he can do for the team so everyone has to step up and create big moments in games, because the front players in the end have to be the ones that decide the game for us.
“His team-mates like him and we were expecting many more things from him since he joined but for many different reasons he hasn’t found his best performances.
“But hopefully Thursday’s performance is going to give him the platform and belief that he is a really important player – he is a player I really like and I did a lot to bring him in and hopefully he can still give us more.”
The bigger picture
Willian’s lack of production in 2020-21 (no goals and four assists in 26 appearances) has been one of the main reasons Arsenal’s attack ranks in the bottom half of the Premier League.
He will likely be called upon in March regardless of his form, as the Gunners must play five games in 21 days because of a two-leg Europa League tie against Olympiacos.
Improvement from the former Chelsea man would not only help vindicate his costly salary, but also boost the entire squad by reducing pressure on others to create chances.