Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has admitted that criticism of summer signing Willian's performances so far this season has not been unjustified.
The 32-year-old former Chelsea man 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 not since the opening day of the season has he performed to the level the Arsenal faithful expected when he arrived in a free transfer.
Speaking ahead of the club's Europa League clash with Benfica on Thursday night, the Arsenal boss was asked about the criticism that has come the way of his player.
He old he club's official website: "I don't say it's unfair because with [Willian] the expectation is really high in terms of the goals he can score. The assists he can create, you expect him to be in the starting lineup as well so it's normal that people write things about him.
"We have to protect him, we have to support him as much as we can because he deserves it from the way he handles his profession and the way he is with us."
Although he didn't say it outright, from the boss' comments you could perhaps assume he himself has been surprised and even disappointed by the lack of impact Willian has had since his arrival.
However, Arteta made sure he praised the Brazilian for his attitude and professionalism, and insisted that if he continues to work hard 'it will come with the quality that he has'. So it seems the message from the boss when it comes to Willian is to keep the faith.
Arsenal's Europa League tie with the Portuguese giants will be played at Rome's Stadio Olimpico as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Arteta will be hoping the lack of home advantage gives his Gunners the edge.
Source : 90min