Arteta launches fresh defence of Willian despite accepting Arsenal man’s decline

Mikel Arteta has defended Arsenal’s decision to sign Willian , despite the former Chelsea man’s underwhelming first season at the club.

Willian’s arrival last August raised eyebrows owing to the fact that he joined on a three-year contract despite being 32 years of age.

Few could have predicted just how ineffective he would be, however, with a player previously renowned for his selfless work ethic looking tired and listless for much of the campaign.

The Brazilian has five assists and one goal in the Premier League this term which is the second-lowest combined total of his time in England.

His attacking output across all competitions is his lowest since his short spell with Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian Premier League.

He now looks increasingly likely to leave this summer, despite the time left on his contract.

According to transfer expert Fabrizio Romano, there’s interest from Europe and MLS with Arsenal waiting for someone to come in for him.

Asked about Willian’s struggles ahead of Arsenal’s game against Crystal Palace on Wednesday evening, Arteta said: “First of all we signed a player with an incredible talent, a proven talent and performance level in this league, and this season has been difficult and I take full responsibility because I have to be the one getting the best out of him and we had moments but not to the level that he did before.

“This is an assessment that we will do individually with the players and with Edu, the board and the ownership to make the right decisions for the future.”

With David Luiz already set to depart this summer , Arteta and technical director Edu have their work cut out for them when it comes to recruitment. Several other first-team players could be on the move, including Bernd Leno, Hector Bellerin, Eddie Nketiah and Granit Xhaka .

That’s not to mention the players currently out on loan who could leave permanently, with Lucas Torreira, Sead Kolasinac, Matteo Guendouzi, Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all facing an uncertain future.

Were Willian to leave as well, few would argue with the decision. The difficult task for Arteta and Edu is finding someone suitable to replace him, with their work in the transfer market so far best described as extremely hit-and-miss.

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