Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta singled out Willian for changing the game in Thursday’s crucial victory against Benfica.
The Gunners secured a 3-2 victory at home to Benfica in the Europa League Round of 32, which gave them a 4-3 aggregate scoreline across the two legs.
They have progressed to the next round of the competition, which looks like being their best avenue into the Champions League for next year.
Despite the fact they are in the next round, the North London club were on the brink of being eliminated, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang popped up with an 87th minute header to spark celebrations.
Arsenal were 2-1 down on the night at one stage, but Kieran Tierney’s powerful left-footed finish gave them the lifeline they needed.
Arteta has praised Willian for his contribution from the bench, as he entered the action in the 63rd minute and assisted Tierney’s equaliser.
The £192,000-a-week (Spotrac) winger added something extra going forward for Arsenal and his impact was somewhat surprising after a difficult season so far.
“Willian specifically 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,” Arteta said in his post-match press conference, as quoted by Football.London.
Willian, 32, made up for some of his underwhelming displays this season with a real impactful cameo against Benfica when his team were staring down a nightmare result.
The Brazilian winger showed the kind of urgency that has been lacking and supporters will hope it can be a catalyst in his season, as he’s looked a shadow of the player he was at former club and London rivals Chelsea.