Willian has returned to boyhood club Corinthians after terminating his contract with embattled Premier League side Arsenal.

After just one season at Arsenal, Willian agreed to tear up his contract despite it having two years remaining in London, having signed from rivals Chelsea on a three-year deal in 2020.

Following the confirmation of Willian's Arsenal departure by mutual consent in anticipation of a Sao Paulo homecoming, Corinthians announced the 33-year-old's arrival.

"I want to thank the fans for their affection, too," Willian – a two-time Premier League champion – said. "I'm getting a lot of messages. I'll do everything to bring joy to Corinthians fans!" 

Willian played for Corinthians' youth teams between 1998 and 2006 before stepping up to the senior side in 2006-07 prior to his switch to Ukrainian powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk 14 years ago.

Before leaving for Europe in 2007, Willian scored two goals in 41 appearances across all competitions for Corinthians.

At Arsenal, Willian made 37 appearances in all competitions during the 2020-21 season, scoring just the one goal from 27 shots.

He did set up seven goals for team-mates, easily outperforming his expected assists total of 3.14, with two of them coming from dead-ball situations.

However, Willian only made four Premier League starts after the turn of the year as Mikel Arteta went with alternative options in his team.

"I want to thank you for the effort, board, technical committee," Willian said. "I respect this crowd a lot, the affection they have for me. I am back!"

Willian leaves an Arsenal side struggling amid mounting pressure on manager Arteta.

Arsenal are winless and goalless after three Premier League games for the first time ever, Manchester City crushing the Gunners 5-0 on Saturday.

That loss extended the Gunners' top-flight losing run to nine against City, their outright longest-ever run of consecutive defeats against an opponent in their league history.

Indeed, Arsenal are just the second team after Wolves in 2003-04 to lose their first three games and have a goal difference of minus-nine – a season in which Wolves finished bottom of the table.

Arsenal have confirmed Willian has left the club by mutual consent, with the Brazilian set to return home to join Corinthians.

Willian joined the Gunners on a free after leaving London rivals Chelsea, signing a three-year deal to make the move to Emirates Stadium.

The 33-year-old made 37 appearances in all competitions during the 2020-21 season, scoring just the one goal from 27 shots.

He did set up seven goals for team-mates, easily outperforming his expected assists total of 3.14, with two of them coming from dead-ball situations.

However, Willian only made four Premier League starts after the turn of the year as Mikel Arteta went with alternative options in his team.

After what the club described as "positive and constructive" discussions between all parties, Willian agreed to terminate a contract that was due to run until 2023.

"Everyone at Arsenal wishes Willian and his family well for the future," Arsenal said in a statement, adding he was heading for a "new opportunity" with Corinthians, the club where he started his professional career.

A two-time Premier League winner during his time at Chelsea, the player has reportedly opted to tear up his deal, rather than negotiate a pay-off.

Willian appeared to confirm as much in a statement on social media, during which he took the opportunity to take aim at his critics, as well as reflect on the many years he has spent in England.

"Unfortunately things on the pitch didn't go the way we had all planned and hoped, I received a lot of criticism, especially from some members of the press, that I had come here for financial reasons… I hope with my actions today explain [sic] to those people and they now understand that was not the case," he wrote.

"I hope it teached [sic] some people that they not be so quick to pass judgement and create bad environments to make themselves important, even though I accept that's part of the game.

"All my career I have done everything to be the best I can be. I always want to win and I find it hard to accept not doing so. Unfortunately it didn't happen for me at Arsenal and I am sorry about that.

"I came to England in 2013 and I have enjoyed every minute of my time here. I want to thank everyone who has helped me along the way to play in this wonderful league that is full of heart and spirit."

Arsenal could well see further departures before the transfer window closes, too.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has made clear his desire to leave to get regular first-team action elsewhere amid rumours of interest from Everton, while Hector Bellerin has been linked with Barcelona.

Arteta's side have lost their opening three league games in the new campaign, leaving them bottom of the table heading into the international break.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles has made clear his desire to leave Arsenal to get regular first-team action elsewhere amid rumours of interest from Everton.

Maitland-Niles has made two substitute appearances so far this season, coming on during the 6-0 EFL Cup win over West Brom before a late cameo in the 5-0 defeat at Manchester City on Saturday.

The 24-year-old spent the second half of the previous campaign on loan at West Brom, starting in 14 games as the Baggies were relegated to the Championship.

Another move away from Emirates Stadium may offer him a chance to play more regularly, though time is running out with the transfer window closing at the end of August.

Everton have reportedly made an offer to take the England international on loan with an option to buy, though it remains to be seen if Arsenal are interested in doing such a deal.

However, Maitland-Niles left no doubt over his position on a potential transfer away from the club in an Instagram post on Monday.

"All I wanna do is go where I'm wanted and where I'm gonna play," he wrote on a story post, along with three crying emojis. Arsenal's official account was also tagged.

Rafael Benitez is seemingly keen to strengthen his defensive options at Everton, with captain Seamus Coleman having started at right-back in the opening three games of the new Premier League season.

Maitland-Niles may not be the only departure from Arsenal before Tuesday's deadline either.

Forward Eddie Nketiah has been linked with Crystal Palace, while Hector Bellerin, another of Mikel Arteta's options to play at right-back, is reportedly a target for Barcelona, should they sell Emerson Royal to Tottenham.

Willian, meanwhile, appears to be heading back home to Brazil to join Corinthians, just over a year after signing for Arsenal on a lucrative deal as a free agent.

Kylian Mbappe is dominating headlines amid Real Madrid's pursuit.

Madrid are keen to prise Mbappe to the LaLiga club, though Paris Saint-Germain are in no hurry to part with the soon-to-be free agent.

Due to PSG's tough stance, Madrid could back out of negotiations.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID GIVE PSG ULTIMATUM

Real Madrid could walk away from their pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Le Parisien.

While Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season, Madrid have been attempting to prise the Frenchman from PSG before the transfer window shuts.

The report claims Madrid will walk away from negotiations if a deal is not completed by Sunday.

There has been talk that PSG could target Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland as a replacement for Mbappe.

 

ROUND-UP

Lautaro Martinez has agreed to sign a new contract with Inter, per Gianluca Di Marzio. Out of contract in 2023, the Argentina international – linked with the likes of Barcelona, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United – will re-sign for four to five years at €6million per season.

Willian will join Corinthians on a free transfer after Arsenal granted his release, says Fabrizio Romano.

- Romano also claims Feyenoord are close to bringing United sensation Amad Diallo to the Eredivisie club on loan.

- Widespread reports say Moise Kean is set to undergo a medical at Juventus as he gears up to join from Everton. It comes as Cristiano Ronaldo prepares to return to United. Juve are also eyeing PSG forward Mauro Icardi.

Dortmund are working on a loan deal for Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi, according to Sky Germany. Hudson-Odoi has long been coveted by Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Dortmund are also looking to bring in United full-back Diogo Dalot.

Chelsea are nearing a transfer that will see Jules Kounde arrive from Sevilla after Kurt Zouma departed for West Ham, reports Goal. Chelsea are also reportedly still targeting Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez, who is wanted by United.

Mikel Arteta's selection options for Arsenal's EFL Cup tie with West Brom have been boosted by the availability of Martin Odegaard, while Alexandre Lacazette has resumed full training.

Lacazette has yet to feature for the Gunners this season after he tested positive for COVID-19 before their Premier League opener against Brentford.

The French striker has now returned to working with the rest of the first-team squad ahead of Wednesday's second-round tie against Championship opponents.

Lacazette scored 17 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions last season to finish as Arsenal's top goalscorer.

Odegaard joined Arsenal from Real Madrid on a permanent basis last Friday following a successful loan spell in the 2020-21 campaign. He scored one goal and provided two assists, while his 20 chances created was the most of any Arsenal player during his temporary spell in north London.

The Norwegian did not receive international clearance in time to feature in Sunday's 2-0 home defeat to London rivals Chelsea.

Arteta will hope for a change of fortunes in the cup competition after back-to-back defeats in their opening two Premier League games.

Meanwhile, reserve goalkeeper Alex Runarsson is available again after overcoming COVID-19 but Arteta may hand a full debut to Aaron Ramsdale, signed from Sheffield United last week.

Defenders Hector Bellerin, Gabriel, Kieran Tierney and forward Gabriel Martinelli have all returned to training ahead of the tie after minor injury concerns.

Arsenal are without striker Eddie Nketiah, who has an ankle injury, amid reported interest from Crystal Palace.

The Gunners are also assessing the fitness of Brazilian forward Willian - recently linked with a move to Corinthians in his homeland - following his recovery from coronavirus.

Centre-back Ben White is absent after testing positive for COVDI-19 before the clash with Chelsea while midfielder Thomas Partey is still unavailable with an ankle injury.

Mikel Arteta was "surprised" the Premier League gave Arsenal's opening game against Brentford the go-ahead after several of his squad tested positive for coronavirus prior to the fixture.

The Gunners, who lost the game 2-0 last Friday, were without strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexndre Lacazette in addition to playmaker Willian and back-up goalkeeper Alex Runarsson, all of whom were self-isolating.

Lacazette and Runarsson will again be missing for Arsenal's clash against Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, although Aubameyang has returned to training while Willian is being assessed.

The Premier League does not have specific thresholds for a number of coronavirus cases to force a fixture postponement, but Aston Villa rearranged matches last season after their squad was hit by a significant number of cases. 

"I was surprised but the regulations or the regulators decided the best thing to do was play the game," Arsenal head coach Arteta said.

“What we did is what we had to do, through the club, through the club doctor as well. He explained the situation, how it developed and the risk that we considered.

"We had an incredible 48 hours before the match which created a big uncertainty. It was probably an unprecedented Arsenal line-up."

Arteta said most his players have now been jabbed against COVID-19 but indicated it was not mandatory for the players.

"Most of them are double vaccinated. Others they have one vaccine," he added.

"We are trying to encourage them to get vaccinated because they are going to protect themselves, their families, obviously the environment around the club."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexander Lacazette, Willian and Alex Runarsson have all been absent due to coronavirus, Arsenal have confirmed.

Head coach Mikel Arteta explained Aubameyang and Lacazette were feeling unwell prior to the Gunners' lacklustre 2-0 defeat at new boys Brentford to begin their Premier League campaign last Friday.

It has now been confirmed the strike duo are part of a quartet who missed that game following a positive test for COVID-19, with each player at various stages of their recovery.

Aubameyang, who scored 10 goals in 29 Premier League outings last term, has now returned a negative result and could be in contention to feature against Chelsea on Sunday.

Willian's situation will be monitored ahead of the clash against his former club, but Lacazette and Runarsson have both been ruled out of the derby clash.

Arsenal also provided injury updates on Gabriel, Eddie Nketiah and Thomas Partey after being beaten by a newly promoted side in their opening league match of the season for the first time since 1976-77 against Bristol City.

Partey is expected to return to training at the end of August after sustaining an ankle injury in the pre-season friendly against Chelsea.

Nketiah, who suffered an ankle injury in the same game as his team-mate, will be back in training a couple of weeks later in September, while Gabriel is aiming to be back later this month.

Tottenham have been linked with a host of big names as their search for a new head coach continues, but could they be set to turn to a familiar face?

Spurs dismissed Jose Mourinho last month amid an underwhelming campaign where they fell off the top-four pace in the Premier League, as well as crashing out of Europe to Dinamo Zagreb despite having led 2-0 from the first leg.

With speculation mounting around superstar forward Harry Kane's desire to leave, Spurs are getting busy.

 

TOP STORY - SPURS PLOT POCHETTINO RETURN

The Sun reports that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will consider if he can convince former boss Mauricio Pochettino to complete an astonishing return to the club.

Pochettino, who took Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final, is currently in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, who finished Ligue 1 runners-up on the weekend.

The Sun claims that Pochettino is unhappy in Paris and would consider heading back to north London, where he was sacked in November 2019 after a poor run of results.

Sky Sports also reports that Spurs are in talks with Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fresh from winning the Serie A title, Antonio Conte and Inter could split by mutual consent according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Inter are trying to cut their salary bill, offloading key members and restricting their off-season business, with those details not yet agreed with Conte.

- Sport claims that Barcelona have stepped up their pursuit of off-contract Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and they are close to a three-year agreement after his representative met with president Joan Laporta.

- Wolves are ready to sell midfielder Ruben Neves as they look to fund a rebuild after Nuno Espirito Santo's exit, according to The Athletic. They want £35million for the Portugal international.

- Sky Sports reports that Willian wants to return to Chelsea, barely a year after leaving the Blues for London rivals Arsenal.

- Bild claims that RB Leipzig defender Nordi Mukiele is being chased by Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen wants to stay with Barcelona and is not considering any other option with Borussia Dortmund not pursuing him, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Robert Lewandowski may be contracted to Bayern Munich until 2023 but speculation is mounting about his future.

Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with the Poland international, particularly if the Parisians lose Kylian Mbappe.

The agent of the Bundesliga record-breaker is reportedly putting pressure on Bayern to re-negotiate his current deal, fuelling the rumours of a switch.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA MAKE LEWANDOWSKI ENQUIRY

Chelsea have reached out to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich to discuss a potential move for Robert Lewandowski, according to Sky Sport Germany.

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea would face stiff competition from Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona, in the event Lewandowski decides to leave Munich, where he has been based since 2014.

Chelsea have been linked with a big-money move for Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, showcasing their financial strength which could be switched to Lewandowski should they miss out on the Norwegian.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester City have emerged as the frontrunners to sign Tottenham star Harry Kane reports the Daily Mail. Kane has reportedly asked to leave Spurs amid links with City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Chelsea are also interested in signing Atalanta's Ruslan Malinovskyi, claims The Sun. Wolfsburg defender Maxence Lacroix is also a target for the Blues, reports Sky Germany.

- The Sun says David Beckham's MLS franchise Inter Miami are pursuing Arsenal attacker Willian, who is reportedly keen on the opportunity.

Frank Lampard is on Crystal Palace's radar as they plan for Roy Hodgson's successor, according to Talksport. Hodgson will leave the Premier League club at the end of the season.  

- Corriere dello Sport claims Gennaro Gattuso is ready to leave Napoli as Fiorentina circle and he wants club captain Lorenzo Insigne to join him.

Mikel Arteta paid a glowing tribute to David Luiz after the Brazil defender's departure from Arsenal at the end of this season was confirmed.

The 34-year-old moved across London to join the Gunners from Chelsea in August 2019.

He has played 73 times in all competitions, scoring on four occasions and contributing to 18 clean sheets.

Arsenal have won 32 of the 69 games he has started during that time – a win percentage of 46.4 per cent – but Arteta and David Luiz mutually agreed to a parting of the ways when his contract expires at the end of his season.

"David and I, we discussed it on a few occasions and the other day we made the final decision on that," he said ahead of Wednesday's trip to Crystal Palace, which will be Roy Hodgson's final home game in charge of the Eagles.

"He's won everything in football and he has earned every right to do so because of who he is as a player and a person. I had the privilege of working with him for 18 months.

"I really enjoyed working with him, we had some great moments together and he's been really helpful. He's someone we really like and appreciate so much.

"Just to say thank you to him and wish him the best of luck in his next chapter. Knowing David, he will have many more to come – as a player and also in the future, somehow related to the game."

David Luiz's countryman and fellow former Chelsea player Willian has endured a difficult maiden season at Arsenal.

The 32-year-old belatedly scored his first Premier League goal for the Gunners in the 3-1 win over West Brom earlier this month, while five assists in the top flight is below the return from each of his last three seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Inter Miami have been linked to a move for Willian, but Arteta expects him to remain at Arsenal and will work to improve his output.

"He's a player with an incredible talent and a proven performance level in this league," he said.

"This season has been difficult and I take full responsibility because I have to be getting the best out of him.

"We had moments, but not to the level like he did before.

"These are the assessments that we are going to do individually with the players and as well, obviously, with [director of football] Edu, the board and the ownership to make the right decisions for the future.

"Every player that is under contract is very likely to be here with us next season."

Willian has urged players to make public the abuse they receive online after revealing the personal impact of such comments on social media.

The Arsenal player shared abusive messages sent to him on Instagram earlier this year, while other high-profile footballers have followed suit in the hope of exposing the issue.

Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford described it as "humanity and social media at its worst" in January in response to messages he received, while Liverpool condemned the "abhorrent racial abuse" aimed at Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keita after a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid on Tuesday.

Willian wants more footballers to share their experiences, as well as calling on the authorities to take stronger action.

"The advice is to share, to put it on their social media, to speak, to never stay quiet, never have fear to come and to speak about that," the Brazil international told the media on Wednesday.

"These people have to pay for that. I don't know why they do that, we want to know that, we have to speak, we have to share on our social media and that's it."

On the best way to combat the problem, Willian said: "I think we have to find a way to change the profile of social media, I think people want to have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, they need to put their ID, then when these things happen, we can catch them.

"The authorities can catch them. That's the action that we want."

Willian understands social media offers a platform for criticism over performances on the pitch, but made clear there is a line that should not be crossed – particularly when it comes to family members.

"It really affects me, what they say about my family. If they want to criticise me, it's no problem, I will always accept that," the former Chelsea player said.

"But when they come to attack you, attack your family with bad words that I cannot say here, that hurts. That's really affecting me and it's a big problem.

He added: "I feel that, straight away I want to delete my social media account. I have seen some people, they are deleting their social media because of that. Straight away I want to do that.

"Then when you think, when you take a few minutes, you relax a little bit more, the first reaction is to delete."

Willian admitted there have been times he has been worried about going onto social media, considering what he may discover on his personal accounts.

"We are human, you know? I want to understand what these people, who they are, who they think they are to come to speak to us like that," he said.

"We are professional, we do the best to help the team, we want to win, we always want to win, we never want to lose.

"We have our bad days, sometimes we are not feeling good, we have problems like everybody has, we have families, sometimes you don't have it, you are not in a good day, you have a bad game and they come with these kind of words that hurt you. That's why we want to stop it. Enough is enough."

Last month, Arsenal launched a #StopOnlineAbuse action aimed at tackling the issue of discrimination on social media.

Asked why he felt the time had come to speak out again about the issue, Willian replied: "Well, because we see it day by day, week by week.

"I was in that situation one month ago, and it was very difficult for me because I have a lot of things on my phone and I saw a lot of horrible words against my family for example.

"After that, I said to myself, 'Enough is enough, I have to try something', to take action against racism and online abuse.

"I am proud because the club is doing that, they are helping us a lot and I will never stop my fight against racism."

Arsenal rising stars Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe face late fitness tests and David Luiz has been ruled out of the clash with Liverpool on Saturday evening.

Brazilian centre-back David Luiz must miss the Premier League game at Emirates Stadium, with Arsenal stating the 33-year-old has encountered "discomfort" in his right knee.

How serious that discomfort proves to be remains to be seen, with Arsenal saying the problem would continue to be examined.

Arsenal have a 36.8 per cent win rate in the 19 Premier League games that have featured David Luiz this season, compared with 50 per cent in the 10 games for which he has been absent.

They have collected an average of 1.4 points when he has played and 1.6 when he has not, with Arsenal heading into the weekend in ninth place, four points adrift of Liverpool who sit seventh.

In an injury update issued on the club website, Arsenal indicated winger Saka's right hamstring problem remained under observation.

The injury forced Saka out of England's three World Cup qualifiers in the past fortnight and although Arsenal posted a picture on Twitter of the 19-year-old in training, they said he "will be assessed ahead of Saturday's match regarding his availability".

The same applies for Smith Rowe, who suffered tightness in his right quad on England Under-21 duty, with Arsenal prepared to leave final decisions until closer to the game.

Manager Mikel Arteta faces a further wait to learn whether former captain Granit Xhaka is ready for the game, with the Swiss midfielder having missed training on Friday due to feeling unwell on his return from international duty.

Willian is available to Arteta, however, with the former Chelsea midfielder fully recovered from a left calf injury.

The 32-year-old has had the most assists (7) of all Arsenal players this season, across all competitions, with Smith Rowe and Saka (both 6) just behind the Brazilian.

Arsenal have lost just two of their last 20 Premier League home games against Liverpool (D9 W9).

Mikel Arteta felt Arsenal performed with "courage" to end a damning six-year run by beating Leicester City on Sunday.

The Gunners responded to an early goal from Youri Tielemans to win 3-1 at the King Power Stadium, with David Luiz and Nicolas Pepe scoring either side of an Alexandre Lacazette penalty.

It was their first Premier League win over Leicester since October 2018 and ended a run of 14 away matches without a victory against teams starting the day in the top three of the table.

Before getting the better of the third-placed Foxes, Arsenal's most recent away win over such lofty opponents came in January 2015, when they won 2-0 at Manchester City.

 

Manager Arteta was proud of the display, especially given their battling Europa League win over Benfica was only three days earlier.

"For me, it's not only about that," said Arteta. "It's how we play against opponents of top quality and just impose ourselves: try to be all the time us, it doesn't matter who we play against, and have the courage to do it against top-quality players.

"I'm proud of the way we won, but more about the way we have done it. Coming here after a very short turnaround after Benfica and going down very early puts the game in a difficult position.

"But we played some really good moments in the game. We were really solid, we dominated the game and overall we deserved the win."

Willian had an assist for a goal in a decisive substitute appearance against Benfica and continued that form at Leicester, crossing for David Luiz's opener and posting game-high figures of six accurate crosses and a 94 per cent passing accuracy.

"He was really good today, but we have seen that in training in the last few weeks," Arteta said of the Brazilian. "I think he is revealing himself. He is not accepting the situation.

"I think he was the player who changed the game against Benfica in the last few moments when he came on and today, I think he was terrific and the same for the senior players.

"Laca, the way he played; Nico, I think he grew in the game and had a big impact as well. And Granit [Xhaka]. I think a player that has played that many minutes, to play with the heart and passion he showed in every action, I think it's a great example for the rest of the players."

The downside to Arsenal's win, which lifted them back into the top 10, was losing Emile Smith Rowe to injury in a game that also saw Leicester's Jonny Evans and Harvey Barnes forced off.

Arteta thinks such incidents will only become more common as the season enters a hectic final third.

"Well, I think it is absolutely normal that it is happening," Arteta said. "That is why as well we needed to change players [today] because if not we were going to expose our players to get injured.

"But sometimes you don't have a chance as a manager [to do that] because you don't have enough players or you have the necessity to win and play them again.

"But it is insane, the amount of minutes and the games that these players are playing without any pre-season, without any break.

"You are going to get injured. We talked about it, all the managers raised our voices at the start of the season and it's happening."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta admitted the club were "expecting many more things" from off-season signing Willian but believes his midweek assist can be a breakthrough.

The Gunners signed veteran Willian on a free transfer in August after seven seasons across London with Premier League rivals Chelsea.

However, the 32-year-old Brazil international is yet to score for Arsenal since his cross-town move and has had an underwhelming impact.

Willian came off the bench to provide the pass for Kieran Tierney's goal in Arsenal's 3-2 win over Benfica in the Europa League on Thursday in a boost which Arteta hopes can lead to more impact.

"I was really pleased with Willian on Thursday," Arteta told reporters.

"He totally deserves some credit because of the way he trains every day and he is trying.

"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.

"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.

"But hopefully Thursday's performance is going to give him the platform and belief that he is a really important player - he is a player I really like and I did a lot to bring him in and hopefully he can still give us more."

Arsenal make the trip to third-placed Leicester City on Sunday, with Willian in contention to make his first league start since December.

Arteta's Arsenal are 11th in the standings, 15 points behind Leicester and 28 points adrift of runaway leaders Manchester City.

Mikel Arteta singled out Willian for "changing the game" against Benfica as Arsenal salvaged a dramatic victory to progress from Thursday's Europa League last-32 tie.

Arsenal, the designated home team, were on the brink of exiting the competition at the first knockout-stage hurdle for the second year running before a late turnaround on neutral soil in Greece.

Diogo Goncalves' impressive free-kick and Rafa Silva's finish into an empty net cancelled out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's opener to give Benfica a 3-2 aggregate lead.

Along with Thomas Partey, Willian was brought on two minutes later and the double change paid off as Arsenal hit back to salvage their campaign in the final half an hour.

Full-back Kieran Tierney lashed home and Aubameyang proved the match-winner three minutes from the end with a header to send Arsenal through 4-3 on aggregate.

Aubameyang took the plaudits with his late goal but Arteta felt Willian, who set up Tierney's goal, was the Gunners' real hero.

"Willian, specifically, I think he changed the game," Arteta said at his post-match news conference.

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

Willian completed 94 per cent of his 17 passes in the opposition half – the best return of any Arsenal player to have attempted at least three such passes.

The assist for Tierney's goal was the only key pass Willian played, with the Scotland international arrowing the ball away from Helton Leite at a crucial point in the tie.

Tierney, who became the first Scotsman to score for Arsenal in a major European competition since Willie Young against IFK Goteborg in March 1980 in the Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final, was also the recipient of individual praise from his manager.

"The way I'd describe him is all determination, all passion for what he does," the Spaniard said.

"The way he has come back from his injury and how willing he is to help the team. He gives us a big lift."

Aubameyang has now scored in seven of his last eight cup matches for Arsenal, netting 10 goals in total, with his only blank coming in the first leg against Benfica.

The Gabon international missed a big chance to send his side through at the same stage last season and is pleased to have put that miss against Olympiacos behind him.

"I definitely had that in my head but this is what gives me power every day to take the errors from the past and transform it to strength," he told BT Sport.

"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."

Aubameyang now has 13 goals for the season in all competitions and Arteta added: "I completely trust him because we're producing the chances and you know when Auba has chances he's going to score goals."

Arsenal, who have now won on each of their last three visits to Greece, will learn their last-16 opponents in Friday's draw.

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