Campbell: This may be Real Reason for Willian switch-up pre-Leeds
Arsenal “didn’t play badly” in the 1-0 loss to Aston Villa and Mikel Arteta is justified in fielding Willian on the left and not the right flank.
That is according to ex-Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell, speaking exclusively to Football Insider after Arteta’s side made it three games without a win with Saturday’s defeat.
The much-maligned Willian was introduced with 16 minutes remaining and played on the left of a front-three, a trend in recent weeks.
The 32-year-old Brazilian has predominantly been deployed on the right throughout his career and it appeared as though this would continue after his summer move to the Emirates.
But Willian has now only played one of the last eight matches in his favoured position going into Sunday’s clash against Leeds United.
Campbell thinks there is merit to Arteta’s strategy and that it was simply a lack of cutting edge which was to blame for their failure to open up a stubborn Villa defence.
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Asked by Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs why Willian was deployed on the left, he said: “For me, it was because Arteta chose to move people around. He moved Saka to left-back and Saka was the one who was going to be providing the width as a full-back.
“And to be fair, they got him in that advanced left-hand side position quite a few times. So that part of the team worked. But whether it’s Martinelli or it’s Willian or it’s Pepe, we didn’t really open Villa up.
“They defended very well, you’ve got to give them some credit. They put bodies in the way.
“They didn’t play badly but they also didn’t play particularly well. They gave a free goal away early on. You know as well as I do that if you start giving gifts away and you give the opposition a headstart, life is going to be difficult.
“And Arsenal aren’t the team that can blow teams away anymore. We can’t afford to give teams a headstart.”
Willian joined Arsenal on a three-year deal in August after his contract with fellow London side Chelsea expried.
Willian made 339 appearances for Chelsea and was with the club for seven years after signing from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in 2013