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.

Mikel Arteta described criticism of Willian as "normal" after the Brazilian came under fire from Arsenal legend Tony Adams. 

Willian has made 18 Premier League appearances for the Gunners since joining the club on a free transfer from Chelsea, though he has struggled to produce his best form and has yet to score a goal for Arsenal. 

In contrast, 19-year-old winger Bukayo Saka has netted five times in 21 league appearances this season, while 20-year-old Emile Smith Rowe has impressed in midfield, prompting Adams to question the club's decision to bring in Willian, as well as the more recent arrival of Martin Odegaard in the January window. 

Arteta admitted there is pressure on Willian to perform, saying of the criticism from Adams: "I don't say it's unfair. 

"The expectations of Willian and the goals he can score, the assists he can create. It's normal that people will write things about him. 

"We have to protect him as much as we can." 

Adams also took aim at Odegaard, suggesting the Premier League club did not need to bring in the Norwegian playmaker, particularly given the recent emergence of Smith Rowe. 

However, Arteta is backing the 22-year-old acquisition from Real Madrid to succeed during his loan spell, saying: "He's got the potential [to become one of the best] because he's done it. 

"I followed him very closely when he was at Real Sociedad and he was impressive for long periods. That's why I was so convinced he could be a player for us." 

Arsenal face Benfica in the Europa League round of 32 on Thursday, with the competition appearing to present their best route to qualifying for next season's Champions League. 

Both legs of the tie will be played in neutral venues due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, meaning Arsenal travel to Rome for the 'away' leg on Thursday. 

Arteta underlined his side's determination not to let the setting affect their progress, saying: "It's very unusual but as much as we can we must try to maintain the integrity of the competition." 

Tony Adams has expressed his dismay that Arsenal signed Martin Odegaard, Nicolas Pepe and Willian rather than strengthening their "fragile" defence.

Mikel Arteta landed Odegaard on loan for the rest of the season last month and the attacking midfielder has suggested he would be keen to join the Gunners on a permanent basis.

Willian has failed to make the impact the Arteta had hoped for after the Brazilian switched London clubs when his Chelsea contract expired, failing to score a single goal and providing only three assists in 24 appearances.

Pepe is another winger who has been a disappointment since he become the club's record signing, with Arsenal paying Nice £72million for his services in 2019. 

The Ivory coast international has struggled to make an impact in the Premier League; scoring nine goals, laying on six assists and creating 46 chances in 47 top-flight appearances.

Arteta brought in centre-backs Gabriel and William Saliba, but Gunners legend Adams has questioned his former club's transfer business.

He told Premier League Productions: "To be honest, there's an argument that you don't need Martin Odegaard.

"I got so annoyed that we bought Pepe and Willian in when you've got two kids [Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka] bursting into the team.

"There's other areas in the team that you could look at, there's holes in that team, we saw how fragile they are defensively. The defence has always been the weak link.

"As the sporting director of Arsenal, you wouldn't be getting Odegaard in, you'd be getting good, strong defenders into the team instead."

Arsenal have only kept one clean sheet in their last six games but beat Leeds United 4-2 on Sunday, courtesy of a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hat-trick, to sit 10th in the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta was unable to offer any further update on the progress of a deal to sign Martin Odegaard as the Arsenal boss defended the performances of under-fire duo Nicolas Pepe and Willian.  

Media reports suggested the Premier League club could complete the loan signing of midfielder Odegaard on Friday. 

However, the Norway international still remains a Real Madrid player for now at least, while his prospective new club exited the FA Cup on Saturday away at Southampton.  

After the holders bowed out 1-0 following a Gabriel own goal at St Mary's Stadium, Arteta revealed he expects to receive further news about potential signings. 

When quizzed over the situation regarding Odegaard, he replied: "I don't know. Obviously we played today. Since last night I don't have any news.

"Probably I will get a few phone calls today and see where we are with every deal."  

The Arsenal boss was also asked if Odegaard coming in could stifle Emile Smith Rowe, who has impressed since being drafted into the first team during the busy festive period.  

"I cannot talk about any player who is not ours," Arteta replied. "We have a clear idea of how we want to develop our players."  

Smith Rowe was not involved against Southampton as Arsenal's FA Cup defence came to a disappointing end on the south coast.  

Willian and Nicolas Pepe were given the chance to impress but neither was able to help the visitors find a way through, leaving Arteta to face questions over their output this season.  

Willian has played 919 minutes in the Premier League this season, providing three assists and creating 12 chances in open play. The Brazilian has yet to score for Arsenal since signing a three-year deal in the previous transfer window, though.  

Pepe, meanwhile, has managed five goals so far in his second year at the club following a big-money move from Lille, a deal that was completed prior to Arteta's return to the north London club.   

However, in just 479 minutes in the league this term, he has not managed to create a single opportunity for a team-mate in open play.

"They tried to give their best, you can see how hard they tried, sometimes with more or less quality," Arteta said of the pair.  

"The intention is there; the willingness is there. This is what we demand of them to do. After that, the decision-making, the final pass, the final ball, the opportunities they had, the hardest thing is the end product.  

"We are going to keep supporting them as much as we can, as a coaching staff and as a club, because that's what it needs. 

"They need to keep working hard and try to improve their performances." 

Arsenal are back at Southampton on Tuesday for a Premier League fixture, followed by a showdown with Manchester United next Saturday. 

Arsenal defender Gabriel is self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus. 

The 23-year-old was left out of Arsenal's squad for Saturday's 3-1 win over Chelsea after coming into close contact with someone who had contracted COVID-19. 

Arsenal have now confirmed that Gabriel has also returned a positive test result, meaning he will miss their next two Premier League matches - against Brighton and Hove Albion and West Brom. 

"Gabriel has tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolating according to UK Government and Premier League protocols," a club statement read.  

"We will continue to monitor and support Gabriel, and we are hoping he will be available again after our next two matches." 

Gabriel has started 12 of Arsenal's 15 league matches this season and has featured a further three times in cup competitions. 

The news comes on the same day the Premier League clash between Everton and Manchester City was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in the latter's camp. 

It is the second Premier League match to be called off due to COVID-19 this season, with Newcastle United's game with Aston Villa earlier this month also delayed. 

Arsenal also announced on Monday that centre-back David Luiz and forward Willian will play no part against Brighton on Tuesday due to illness, though their absences are not linked to coronavirus.

Mikel Arteta said there is "no problem" between David Luiz and Dani Ceballos after the Arsenal duo were reportedly involved in a training ground bust-up.

The Athletic alleged a physical altercation between David Luiz and Ceballos took place during the international break, though the Spanish midfielder took to Twitter to call the story "fake".

Arsenal manager Arteta insisted "nothing" happened on the training pitch at the club's London Colney base as he tried to play down the story.

"Training is very competitive and issues happen a lot of time," Arteta told a media conference on Friday.

"And those things get resolved immediately within the team. Not much [more] to say. No problem [between the two]."

When asked if had personally witnessed the incident, Arteta added: "I've got really bad vision from far. That's why we train behind closed doors."

Arteta was faced with another disciplinary issue during the international break when Brazil forward Willian posted a picture of himself in Dubai on his Instagram account.

United Kingdom government guidelines around international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic say it should be restricted "except in limited circumstances".

Willian joined Arsenal from Chelsea on a free transfer in August but has struggled to find his best form for the Gunners with no goals and just two assists in seven Premier League appearances.

Arteta refused to state if Willian's trip had broken club rules, or whether he would be dropped for Sunday's Premier League clash at Leeds United, but he has spoken to the 32-year-old about the matter.

"We had a conversation and I explained what I was expecting," Arteta explained.

"There are a lot of personal factors at the moment as well from our side and we need to be in their shoes.

"Other players are having different issues and sometimes they make decisions based on the needs or the moment or what people are expecting from them.

"Whether they are right or wrong is something we have to discuss but it's been dealt with in the right way and let's move on.

"Whatever happens internally with any issues or things we don't expect, as always we will try to resolve them internally. That's been dealt with and explained."

Arteta claimed it can be difficult for footballers to observe every single detail of coronavirus restrictions all of the time.

He added: "It's impossible because we have so many rules, guidelines that we have to follow that sometimes without even thinking you break them.

"Even in training you give a bib to someone and you think, 'Oh no, I can't do that.' We're all very aware of what we're dealing with and we take it very seriously and everyone can make a mistake.

"It's just where that mistake is coming from is the relevant thing."

Mikel Arteta has backed Willian to come good at Arsenal once the winger has fully adjusted to his team's style of play.

The Brazil international strengthened Arteta's attacking options when he joined the Gunners on a free transfer from Chelsea in August.

Willian started his Arsenal career brightly with two assists on his Premier League debut for the club in a 3-0 victory over Fulham on the opening weekend of the season.

But the 32-year-old, who signed a three-year deal, has yet to contribute directly to any more goals in five league appearances since then, having struggled with a calf injury.

Arsenal manager Arteta, however, remains confident Willian will prove his worth.

"He’s getting better and better," Arteta said at a media conference ahead of his side's Premier League clash with Aston Villa on Sunday.

"I can see a development in the last few games. The things I asked him to do are probably different to things that he’s used to.

"We all know the qualities he has and he’s a great option to have. I think he started really well in the first game against Fulham, then we changed from the three [up front].

"They [Arsenal's attacking players] need to generate that relationship, the understanding on the pitch between the front players, the wide players, for those things to work better."

Villa are the only side yet to concede away from home in the Premier League this season ahead of the clash at the Emirates Stadium.

Yet Dean Smith's side have shipped seven goals in their last two home games and Arteta believes Willian can cause them more problems.

"I think he’s a player that can make the difference," added Arteta.

"He’s got that ability to find the last action, to open the door when everything is really tight – to score a goal, create an assist.

"The personality that he has on the pitch, to manage the game the way we need to in some moments – at Old Trafford against Manchester United I think he did that really well."

The new 2020-21 season is really kicking into gear as Premier League matchweek two approaches.

After prior European commitments delayed Manchester City and Manchester United starting their respective campaigns, there is a full slate of matches this weekend.

That means there is plenty of opportunity for fantasy managers to make up for missing out on Mohamed Salah, Jamie Vardy or even Jeff Hendrick last week.

Need to get back on track or build on a strong start? This Opta-powered selection provides some must-haves for the coming round of matches.

 

EMILIANO MARTINEZ

Picking an Arsenal goalkeeper heading into the campaign was slightly risky business with two vying for the first-choice spot. Fortunately, with Emiliano Martinez leaving for Aston Villa, the matter has been settled.

From his first start last season on June 25, following Bernd Leno's injury, Martinez made more saves (31) than any other top-flight keeper and only trailed Nick Pope (85.3) and Ederson (81.8) in terms of save percentage (81.1). He kept three clean sheets, too.

Only Bournemouth and Norwich City - both relegated - managed fewer clean sheets than Villa's seven last term, yet one of those came at home to Monday's visitors Sheffield United.

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Everton left-back Lucas Digne was certainly worth having on the opening weekend. He contributed to a clean sheet at Tottenham and also supplied the assist for Dominic Calvert-Lewin's decisive goal.

But that display was no one-off.

Only Liverpool pair Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson (both 13) have more Premier League assists from defence than Digne (eight) since the start of the 2019-20 campaign.

Over that same spell, the Frenchman ranks second for chances created (73) and passes played into the box (320) by defenders and third (150) in terms of open-play crosses. He can test out that supply line at home to West Brom.

 

TARIQ LAMPTEY

Although beaten against former club Chelsea last time out, Tariq Lamptey continues to show himself to be an all-round package for Brighton and Hove Albion.

From right-back, the 19-year-old has created the most chances from open play (eight - tied with two others), supplied the most crosses (24), completed the most dribbles (17) and made the most interceptions (19) of any Brighton player since June 2020.

If Brighton get a result at Newcastle United, Lamptey is likely to be in the points.

 

WILLIAN

New signing Willian gave Arsenal fans and fantasy managers alike a taste of what they can expect on opening day.

At Fulham, he became the first player to contribute two assists on his Premier League debut for Arsenal since Ray Parlour against Liverpool in August 1992.

Since June 2020, Willian trails only Robertson (six) in terms of assists (four) and Kevin De Bruyne (40) for chances created (28), with struggling West Ham up next at home.

 

BRUNO FERNANDES

Joining in January, Bruno Fernandes quickly established himself as a star fantasy performer last season. There is little reason to suggest he will not be similarly effective this term.

The Manchester United midfielder has been involved in 20 goals (including eight assists) in all competitions since his arrival from Sporting CP, the most of any of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's players.

Indeed, Fernandes leads the way across the whole Premier League in that regard, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (17 involvements) second. United face Crystal Palace.

 

HARRY KANE

Tottenham talisman Harry Kane has tended to start Premier League seasons slowly, but his record against Southampton - this week's opponents - is particularly impressive.

The England captain has nine goals in his past nine league games against the Saints, only tallying more often in clashes with Leicester City (14) and Arsenal (10).

Kane will no doubt be determined to continue that scoring streak this weekend, having suffered a torn hamstring at Southampton in January that checked his 2019-20 campaign.

 

JAMIE VARDY

Needed to check he has still got it? Vardy again proved his worth with a brace for Leicester against West Brom last week.

Those strikes improved his total since the start of last season to 25 in the league, while he also leads the way for shot conversion rates (27.47 per cent) among those with 10 or more goals in that time.

Even at 33, it is too early to write off Vardy, who will aim to dampen Burnley's new-season optimism on Sunday.

Paul Merson is stunned Chelsea allowed forward Willian to sign for rivals Arsenal after he shone on his debut for the Gunners.

Willian joined Arsenal on a three-year deal last month after the expiration of his contract at Chelsea, who had offered an extension but were not prepared to match what was on the table from Mikel Arteta's side.

The 32-year-old made a magnificent start to his Arsenal career on Saturday, racking up two assists in a comfortable 3-0 Premier League win away to promoted Fulham.

Former Arsenal star Merson feels Chelsea have made a big mistake, saying there is no guarantee manager Frank Lampard will be afforded the time to watch the likes of Kai Havertz reach his peak.

"I cannot believe Chelsea let Willian go," Merson said to Sky Sports.

"I know they have gone out and get special players, but there is nothing to say they are going to hit the ground running. 

"In Willian, you have got someone there who is ready-made. I like who they have signed, but they cost a lot of money, and their wages are probably the same as Willian.

"Frank Lampard has now. He has not got four years. That's management.

"I'm not being horrible. Even if Frank wins the league this year, it does not mean he is going to be there in four years' time! We know that, and how it changes.

"Who is to say this is not going to take time for Chelsea? And I don't think they've got time at the moment."

Despite liking Arteta's methods and Arsenal's performance at Fulham, Merson thinks his former club are unlikely to be battling it out with the likes Liverpool, the Manchester clubs and Chelsea.

"It was a great result for Arsenal," he said. "These are the dangerous games.

"You don't want to play promoted teams when they come up, you want to play them in January when it's hit home how hard it is, and they have a couple injuries.

"Gabriel makes his debut, is solid, and scores a goal. It was a good performance. I like Arteta, you can see what he's trying to do, playing a certain way, as a team and with a high tempo.

"I like what they are doing, but top four? I just think the gulf is too big. 

"There's three or four leagues within the Premier League. I think the top four is the top four in their own league, then you have got your Arsenal, Tottenham and maybe even Everton now with Leicester. 

"Then you have probably got another little league in mid-table before you get to the lower ends. It's quite interesting, and that's why it's the best league in the world."

Willian proved with his debut performance against Fulham just why Arsenal were so keen to sign him from Chelsea, according to team-mate Rob Holding.

The Brazil international joined Arsenal on a three-year deal last month after his Chelsea contract expired and made a big impact in his first Premier League outing for the club.

He set up fellow debutant Gabriel and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the Gunners' second and third goals at Craven Cottage after Alexandre Lacazette's early opener.

In doing so, Willian became the first player to assist two goals on his Premier League debut for Arsenal since Ray Parlour in August 1992 against Liverpool.

Holding was impressed by what he saw from the winger in Arsenal's opening day 3-0 win, while also reserving praise for fellow new recruit Gabriel, who made a difference at both ends.

"I know Willian from when we've played Chelsea," Holding told the Evening Standard. "I know he's got all the ability so it's nice to have him in your team.

"He proved [against Fulham] why we signed him and Gabriel was also solid as a rock. He won everything aerially and finished off with a nice goal as well."

Arsenal ended last season by winning the FA Cup and have picked up from where they left off, beating Liverpool in the Community Shield before their weekend triumph.

Holding played a full part in all three of those games and is hopeful of keeping that positive momentum going under first-team manager Mikel Arteta.

"To win with the clean sheet is always nice," he said. "We wanted to make a little bit of a statement in the first game of the season.

"The first one to kick us off. Other teams will have been watching and seen the result before they went in, so to get a good 3-0 win away from home is a good start.

"Finishing the season with a trophy and starting this one with the Community Shield win... we've got a load of confidence coming in and now we want to have a good run and go for it."

Next up for Arsenal is the visit of London rivals West Ham on Saturday.

Mikel Arteta believes Willian will prove to be the ideal role model for Arsenal's youngsters after the former Chelsea winger, along with fellow debutant Gabriel, starred against Fulham.

Willian became the first player since Ray Parlour in 1992 to provide two assists on his Premier League debut for Arsenal, as he teed up Gabriel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in a 3-0 win – Alexandre Lacazette netting the Gunners' other goal at Craven Cottage.

Arteta stressed in the build-up to Saturday's season opener that he had brought in the 32-year-old – who has signed a three-year deal after leaving Chelsea as a free agent – to add balance to a youthful squad.

Saturday's performance, Arteta believes, proves just how useful Willian will be for the FA Cup holders.

"Willian, you got the feeling he wanted more," Arteta said.

"Again he showed how much he wants it and how much he's going to try in order to achieve it.

"It's what we expect. We need a mix, we have a lot of young players with a big talent and a big future but they need some role models and I think Willian is a really good one to have around the place.

"He doesn't talk much in the dressing room but always talks on the pitch and that's a good way to do it."

As well as scoring on his maiden Arsenal appearance, Gabriel – signed from Ligue 1 club Lille – put in an impressive display at the back to help the Gunners keep a clean sheet, and Arteta is confident the Brazilian will have no issues adapting to the Premier League.

"We followed him a lot. He has very special qualities to play the role we want him to play and to adapt," Arteta said.

"I don't have to say what they are, I think you saw them all today. His character, his personality on the pitch and for a boy who doesn't speak the language to come in and do what he did, it's a big credit [to him]."

Arteta was asked if he has changed the perception of Arsenal since taking over in December, but the former Manchester City assistant insists there is still plenty for his side to improve upon.

"What we'll have to find is the level of consistency throughout the season. We've done it in one match. There's still a lot of things to prove collectively and individually as well," he added.

"We have another week to train and next week go again. What I can see is that they are not happy with just two trophies, they want more and they want to speed up this process and hopefully they are enjoying it as well.

"I want to get the team to a level that performs as high as the team can perform and be the best they can be. Time will tell where we are at the end of the season. My only aim is to get things right next week and keep winning."

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