Mikel Arteta singles out Arsenal star Willian who ‘changed the game’ in Benfica fightback

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta speaks to the press before the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between Arsenal FC and SL Benfica at Karaiskakis Stadium on February 25, 2021 in Piraeus, Greece.
Arteta praised Willian (Picture: Arsenal FC via Getty)

Mikel Arteta was delighted with the contribution of substitute Willian in Arsenal’s 3-2 win over Benfica and claimed the Brazilian ‘changed the game’.

Arteta’s side looked on the brink of a Europa League exit after falling 2-1 down to the Portuguese giants but goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Kieran Tierney were enough to see them through.

Willian replaced Emile Smith Rowe after 63 minutes and made an immediate impact, laying the ball to Tierney who thumped home a vital equaliser.

While it was Aubameyang who scored the winner, after more excellent work from star man Bukayo Saka, Arsenal boss Arteta was keen to lavish praise on Willian – who has endured a tough first season in an Arsenal shirt.

‘Willian specifically, I think he changed the game,’ Arteta said in his post-match press conference.

‘He gave us much more composure in moments, produced some creativity, produced the goal for Kieran and we need everybody on board.’

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring the 3rd Arsenal goal with (L) Willian, (R) Alex Lacazette and Bukayo Saka during the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between Arsenal FC and SL Benfica at Karaiskakis Stadium on February 25, 2021 in Piraeus, Greece.
Willian was involved in the comeback (Picture: Arsenal FC via Getty)

Willian, who signed from Chelsea in the summer, hasn’t started for Arsenal since playing 90 minutes in their FA Cup exit at the hands of Southampton but will no doubt hope this was a turning point in his Arsenal career.

Arsenal captain Aubameyang, who scored twice on the night, was delighted with the ‘character’ shown by his team-mates.

‘Everyone is happy tonight,’ he told BT Sport. ‘This is what gives me power every day, take errors from the past and transform to strength.

‘The team showed a lot of character and we deserved the win. It was a hard game. What we showed tonight will be an example for the future.’

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