Willian has been told to learn from youngster Bukayo Saka – despite Mikel Arteta claiming the veteran ‘changed the game’ for Arsenal against Benfica.
The Gunners needed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s late goal to reach the last 16 of the Europa League, with the Gabon forward’s second goal ensuring a 3-2 win on the night.
But Willian also made a crucial intervention, setting up Kieran Tierney’s second-half equaliser after Benfica had taken a 2-1 lead.
The 32-year-old has struggled to win over Arsenal fans since joining on a free transfer last summer, but created the chance for Tierney just minutes after coming off the bench to replace Emile Smith Rowe.
Arteta praised Willian after the game, saying: “I think he changed the game. He gave us much more composure in moments, produced some creativity, produced the goal for Kieran and we need everybody on board.”
However, Gunners legend Martin Keown demanded more from the winger – and said he could learn a lot from 19-year-old Saka, who set up both Aubameyang’s strikes.
“He asks questions,” Keown said of Saka on BT Sport after Arsenal’s 4-3 aggregate victory. “This is what I want from Willian.
“Run with the ball and test yourself. It’s hard, it’s demanding, physically, to run at someone.
“Don’t just keep coming back and passing to someone else. We’ve brought you here to make a difference, but Saka isn’t going to wait for anyone, he wants to ask questions and that’s why he keeps creating all these assists.”
Saka has been one of Arsenal’s most exciting attacking players since he cementing himself a place in the front three towards the back end of 2020.
But Keown says Arteta’s team need the same threat from both flanks – and called on Willian to build on his vital contribution from Thursday’s clash in Greece.
“We need it from both sides, and this might be the making of Willian, tonight,” he said.
“He’s been a bit gloomy, it’s all down for him, but this is a big moment now. He’s just come on, he’s been a part of the success, and hopefully he can be a big part moving forward.”