Arsenal fans might whisper it, but Willian is showing signs of renaissance. by Yash
The chronic problems related to Willian have somewhat disappeared recently. He is no longer the person that is getting the stick by Arsenal fans on social media.
The former Brazilian international racked up two assists in a Premier League match, for the first time since the opening day win against third-bottom Fulham. Willian had just two shots on target for the Gunners in his first 20 appearances in all competitions. Thus, the scrutiny that headed his way was not unfair at all.
Whenever the Brazilian had the ball, he looked lousy and uninventive. Some Arsenal fans wanted him to leave in January itself, less than six months since his arrival from London-rivals Chelsea.
The genius player who was one of the best at Chelsea in his latter years, barely showed the Arsenal faithful any glimpses of his amazing talent he showed at Stamford Bridge.
As a result, the Brazilian became a regular fixture on Arsenal’s bench since Christmas. During that time, the Gunners went on an impressive winning run.
Mikel Arteta kept on trying his luck, by giving the former Chelsea man few minutes at late stages in matches, hoping that the Brazilian’s career would revive at the Emirates with a swish of a wand.
The trick seemed to be not working, until his assist against Benfica. It was hardly an eye-catching assist as the 32-year-old laid the ball to Kieran Tierney, who still had to do a lot to score. Tierney got his goal. Willian got his Arsenal career back on track.
That performance was rewarded by a start against the high-flying Leicester City, who sit third in the table. The winger’s pinpoint free-kick was converted into a goal by his former Chelsea teammate David Luiz.
But his crucial contribution at the King Power Stadium did not stop there. He collected his second assist at the 53rd minute, laying the ball to Nicolas Pepe through the legs of Leicester’s goalscorer Youri Tielemans.
His two assists were just half the story. His dazzling dribbling skills cut open the Leicester defense on numerous occasions. His defensive contribution on the left-wing was also crucial for Arsenal suppressing the threat of Foxes’ attacks.
Mikel Arteta echoed the Brazilian’s performance in the post-match press conference by saying, “He was really good. We’ve seen that in training the last few weeks. He’s rebuilding himself and he has not accepted the situation. I think he was the player who changed the game against Benfica in the last few moments when he came on, and today I think he was terrific.”
The Arsenal manager would hope that his fresh recruit, who he was determined to sign, repays the faith that has been continually shown in him with more such performances.