Arsenal appeared to fall victim to the latest case of the ‘Willian Curse’ as the Gunners crashed out of the FA Cup on Saturday.
The holders were second best at Southampton, as an early own-goal from returning defender Gabriel was ultimately all the Saints needed to knock the holders out at the fourth round.
Mikel Arteta was blasted by fans for fielding a weakened team as the Gunners’ recent resurgence was ground to a halt.
With captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang absent for personal reasons, the club’s in-form youngsters were all rotated out of the team too, and back in came the likes of Willian and French forward Nicolas Pepe.
But the decision came back to bite the boss, with Willian again facing the wrath of angry supporters over his latest dire performance, with the Brazilian failing to produce on his return to the team.
Having impressed earlier on following his free transfer from Chelsea, Willian’s form has since nosedived and a number of stunning statistics have emerged following Saturday’s defeat to Southampton.
Willian has made 20 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal this season, but has managed to land just TWO shots on target.
At one point against the Saints, the forward is reported to have completed more passes to the referee than to teammates Pepe or Gabriel Martinelli.
But perhaps the most stunning, is the recent joy Arsenal have had without the former Chelsea man in the team.
The Gunners’ recent return to form and climb up the table, maybe unsurprisingly, coincided with Willian being dropped from Arteta’s first XI.
Willian’s last start in the Premier League came against Everton, where he played all 90 minutes as Arsenal were beaten 2-1 at Goodison Park.
The Gunners have been undefeated in their five league games since, with Willian making just two substitute appearances in that time.
Meanwhile, Willian’s last SEVEN league appearances have all ended in either a defeat or a draw for Arsenal – EIGHT if you include their FA Cup exit.
And after failing to give Arteta a reason to keep him in the side, even former Spurs striker Peter Crouch admitted neither he nor Pepe should be surprised if they are immediately dropped again.
Speaking on BT Sport, Crouch said: “You have Willian and Pepe, you’d expect them to do the job with a point to prove, hungry.
“They should be showing the manager that you don’t want kids playing in front of you.
“But they can’t be angry when they’re dropped again on Tuesday.”
Next up for Arsenal is another clash against Southampton, where they will be hoping to get over their cup disappointment and keep their Premier League run going.
We wonder if Arteta will have learned his lesson…
Arsenal’s PL record with/without Willian
In starting XI:
Not in starting XI: