Arsenal began their 2020/21 Premier League season in the best possible fashion with a 3-0 win over newly-promoted Fulham at Craven Cottage.
The goals came from Alexandre Lacazette, Gabriel Magalhaes and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but claiming three assists on his debut, it was Willian who stole the show in south west London.
Winning by three goals puts Arsenal in a commanding position for the early stages of the season which will be important before they face Liverpool, Leicester City and Manchester City in the coming weeks. Their next game is against West Ham at Emirates Stadium on Saturday [September 19].The main talking point from the win was without doubt the performance of Willian. Arriving at 32-years-old, the former Chelsea man was brought to Arsenal to add experience and another body that can be relied upon to perform, which is exactly what he did.
Alongside his hat-trick of assists, the Brazilian impressed with his willingness to track back, his tidiness in possession [96.2% pass completion], ability to beat his man and a free kick which rattled the post in the first half.
Starting ahead of Nicolas Pepe, whose most complete appearance in an Arsenal shirt was his last – against Chelsea in the FA Cup final, Arteta was asked how Willian’s performance would force him to react. Rather than just sending a message to Pepe, however, the Spaniard ensured it was a performance that should be taken in by every player that didn’t make his starting XI.
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“Well, it’s not for Nico, I think it’s all the players that were on the bench and the ones that we had to leave at home. They have to raise their level and then the performances of the club are going to improve,” he said in his post-match press conference.
“This is what I demand. I’m really happy with all the boys in training but selection is getting more complicated. As well, we just have 18 players in the squad, it makes it very difficult.”
Returning to the club this summer, most would have believed it likely that Mohamed Elneny’s time at Arsenal was coming to an end. The Egyptian enjoyed a successful loan spell at Besiktas, who wanted to keep him permanently, and the Gunners appeared to be moving on in midfield without him.