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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has admitted that criticism of Willian’s summer signing so far this season has not been unjustified.
The 32-year-old former Chelsea player enjoyed much success in West London, winning two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and a Europa League with the Blues, but since the opening day of the season has not played to the level expected by the Arsenal faithful when he came free.
Speaking ahead of the club’s Europa League clash with Benfica on Thursday night, the Arsenal manager was asked about the criticism that has been leveled at his player.
He old he clubs official website: “I’m not saying it’s unfair because with [Willian] the expectation is really high in terms of the goals he can score. Because of the assists he can create, you expect him to be in the starting lineup too, so it’s normal for people to write things about him.
“We have to protect him, we have to support him as much as we can because he deserves it for the way he handles his profession and the way he is with us.”
Although he did not say so openly, from the boss’s comments it may be assumed that he himself has been surprised and even disappointed by the lack of impact Willian has had since his arrival.
However, Arteta made sure to praise the Brazilian for his attitude and professionalism, insisting that if he continues to work hard “he will arrive with the quality that he has.” So it seems like the boss’s message when it comes to Willian is to keep the faith.
Arsenal’s Europa League tie with the Portuguese giants will be played at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Arteta hopes the lack of home-court advantage will give his Gunners an advantage.