Mikel Arteta has heaped praise on Willian for his role in helping Arsenal come back from behind in their Europa League round of 32 second leg against Benfica.
The Gunners found themselves down on the night and on aggregate after a Diogo Goncalves free kick and a Rafa Silva strike after a massive Dani Ceballos error had cancelled out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s opener.
With his side’s prospects of progressing to the next round looking increasingly slim Arteta then turned to Willian over the likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette as his first change on the night.
Within minutes the Brazilian provided an assist for Kieran Tierney which made it 2-2 on the night and 3-3 on aggregate.
And now the Arsenal boss has singled out the former Chelsea winger for praise after coming up trumps in a key moment for the Gunners’ season.
“Willian specifically I think he changed the game,” he said of the Brazilian’s display.
“He gave us much more composure in moments, produced some creativity, produced the goal for Kieran and we need everybody on board.
“In this competition having the ability to make five subs that’s a big bonus.”
When asked to explain why he chose to bring on Willian ahead of others Arteta admitted he felt the 32-year-old could offer something his side were lacking on the night.
“Because there wasn’t much space to run in behind. It was a really tight two lines of 4-4-1 or 5-3-2 at times. They were a really low block not much space to run apart from when they set the line around the 18-yard box.
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“So you need people to unlock that special qualities in tight spaces to create moments and I think Willy he was really helpful tonight.”
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second goal of the night in the dying moments of the game ensured that Arsenal were able to progress to the Round of 16 in the Europa League, keeping their prospects of qualifying for the Champions League next season alive for now.
They will find out their opponents in the next stage of the competition when the draw is made at 12:00PM GMT.