Please Wait . . .
It has been a long time coming, but we may just witnessed the week that finally kickstarts the Brazil international'sArsenal career.
Having come off the bench on Thursday night to play a major role in the Gunners' comeback against Benfica in the Europa League, the former Chelsea man took centre stage as Mikel Arteta’s again came from behind to beat Leicester City on Sunday.
He contributed two assists in the 3-1 success, adding to the assist he picked up for Kieran Tierney against Benfica in Athens.
This was the type of performance fans hadgrown accustomed to from Willian during his seven-year stay with Chelsea, and one that was totally out of keeping from what we had come to expect from him at Arsenal.
As well as the two assists, for David Luiz and the equallyimpressive Nicolas Pepe, he also made a huge c3ontribution to the move that resulted in Arsenal being awarded the penalty that Alexandre Lacazette converted just before half-time.
He repaid the faith shown in him by Mikel Arteta, and Arsenal’s manager will hope his summer signing can maintain this form for the remainder of the season.
"He is a player who we all like," Arteta said of Willian ahead of kick-off at the King Power Stadium. "His team-mates like him and we were expecting many more things from him since he joined, but for many different reasons he hasn't found his best performances.
“He is a player I really like and I did a lot to bring him in and hopefully he can still give us more.
"In games now you can see that he is starting to produce what we think he can do for the team so everyone has to step up and create big moments in games because the front players in the end have to be the ones that decide the game for us."
Willian was one of six changes Arteta made from the side that started against Benfica on Thursday night. Lacazette and Pepe also came into the front four, while Mohamed Elneny, Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari all started, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Sakaamong the players who dropped the bench.
It was the first game in February that Saka had not started for Arsenal, and Arteta would have been desperate to see those who were brought in prove that his side can cope without the prodigious teenager.
But when they fell behind to a Youri Tielemans strike on six minutes, he must have feared the worst.
So he would have been delighted by the way his side reacted to the early setback and hauled themselves back into the game.
Pepe and Willian had both seen chances go begging by the time the former sent in an excellent free-kick which was headed home by David Luiz to make it 1-1.
And then Lacazette’s penalty, given after a handball by Wilfried Ndidi, ensured Arsenal went into the break with a deserved 2-1 lead.
Pepe extended Arsenal’s lead seven minutes into the second half, tapping in Willian’s ball across the six-yard boxto finish off what had been a fabulous Arsenal counterattack.
Arteta’s side comfortably saw out the remainder of the game to seal one of the most impressive results of the season, one that was achieved without Saka even having to come onto the pitch.
So much talk has been about Arsenal’s reliance on the 19-year-old, so the fact that they produced what was arguably their best performance of the campaign without him will be a big confidence booster ahead of the final months of the season.
It was their first victory away from home in the league against a side who kicked-offthe top three since beating Manchester City in January2015, and Arteta will want to use this performance as the benchmark going forward.
It hasbeen a difficult year for Arsenal, but the past week could turn out to be a major turning point in what has been a disappointing season.
Having set up a last-16 tie against Olympiacos in the Europa League, they have now moved to win eight points of fourth-placed West Ham in the Premier League.
And, perhaps most importantly, they have proven thatthey can win games without the likes of Saka and Aubameyang in the forward line.