Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says he understands why Willian has come in for heavy criticism after a disappointing first six months of his Arsenal career.
Willian joined the Gunners from London rivals Chelsea, but after an impressive debut at Fulham has failed to impress.
He has lost his place in Arteta’s Premier League XI and had to settle for a place on the bench in their past six games, failing to make much impact after coming on.
As a high-profile, well-remunerated arrival his performances have come under fire and Arteta accepts that goes with the territory.
“I don’t say it’s unfair because expectations are really high in terms of the goals he can score, the assists he can create,” he said of the broadsides aimed at Willian, who is yet to score in 24 appearances.
“You expect him to be in the starting lineup, so it is normal that people write things about him.
“What he is doing, the way he is training, the way he is working and the way he is pushing to give everything at the team, is what I demand. Whether he is more or less successful in the game is another matter. It will come, with the quality he has.”
Willian could start against Benfica on Thursday in their Europa League round-of-32 first leg, which is nominally the Lisbon club’s home tie but will be played at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico because of Covid-19 travel restrictions between England and Portugal.