'We'll keep trying with him' – Mikel Arteta defends struggling Arsenal star

Mikel Arteta has defended Willian after the Arsenal winger put in yet another ineffective display in Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup victory over Newcastle.

The Gunners sealed their place in the fourth round of the competition after extra-time goals from Emile Smith Rowe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wrapped up a hard-fought win.

After a brief spell out with illness, Willian returned to the starting XI to face the Magpies but struggled to make an impact drifting between No.10 and left wing positions.

The 32-year-old is yet to find his feet since moving the Emirates on a free transfer in the summer, however, Arteta has vowed to keep his faith in him.

‘I think he was improving and improving,’ the Spaniard said. ‘The other day he came on really well against West Brom. He’s been out as well because he was ill.

‘He missed two weeks of training and football. Today was the first time he has started a game.

‘He had some good moments and other moments where he needed more help and some decisions weren’t the best.

‘We’re going to keep trying with him. He’s showing in training how much he wants it, he’s got some highlights in the game and it’s about keeping the confidence in him. We know the player that he is and it’s about [giving him] time to show it.’

With Arsenal’s youngsters such as Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli continuing to impress, Willian may struggle for a regular starting berth in the Premier League.

When asked if it will be difficult to keep the experienced winger’s confidence high with the young players flourishing around him, Arteta replied: ‘I think when the team is winning it’s easier, because it allows you a little bit more time to do that process.

‘He needs to build those relationships with those players. Today he played in a slightly different position as well. We will get there.’

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