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."

Mikel Arteta was thrilled with the performance of Gabriel as he marked his Arsenal debut with a goal in Saturday's 3-0 win at Fulham.

The centre-back scored the visitors' second, diverting Willian's corner in via his shoulder to make it 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

It was Gabriel's first competitive match since he played in a 1-0 Ligue 1 win for Lille over Lyon, with France's top-flight season having been declared finished and positions confirmed on a points-per-game basis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There was a positive maiden Gunners outing for former Chelsea star Willian, who also forced the chance for Alexandre Lacazette to open the scoring and set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the third.

Manager Arteta was particularly pleased with Gabriel, who completed a game-high 107 passes, especially given he had been out of action for so long.

"They were both really good," he said. "Obviously for Willy it's a little bit easier because he knows the league, the country and he's very settled here so I knew his performance would happen straight away.

"With Gabriel, it was a big challenge for him to come in because he didn't play any football for six months.

"Ideally, I wanted to give him some time because he only trained for a few days with the team. Physically, he has not played a competitive match for six months, so there was a risk of injury as well. 

"But credit to him, he performed really well, physically he was very good."

Arteta hopes Willian's display provides encouragement for Arsenal's substitutes, including club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, to fight for their place in the team.

"It's not for Nico, it's for all the players on the bench and the ones we had to leave at home. They have to raise their level and then the performance of the club and the team is going to improve, and this is what I demand of them," he said.

"I'm really happy with all the boys, the way they've been training, but selection is getting more complicated, as well as this new rule with only 18 players in the squad, it makes it very difficult, but they were really good."

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta hopes for good news on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's contract "in the next few days".

The Gabon striker scored the Gunners' third as they eased to a 3-0 win at Fulham in their first match of the 2020-21 Premier League season on Saturday.

Aubameyang has hit 55 goals in the top flight since his debut on February 4, 2018, which is more than any other player in the competition in that time.

However, the 31-year-old's future has been the subject of intense speculation in recent months, with his contract expiring in 20201.

Arteta stated this week that Arsenal fans could feel "pretty relaxed" about the player's future and he suggested again on Saturday that a positive update is around the corner.

"I'm really positive we're going to get it done and in the next few days hopefully we have some news," he told BT Sport.

Arteta was thrilled with his side's performance against Fulham, who had no response to the goals from Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and debutant Gabriel.

Willian also enjoyed an impressive first outing for the Gunners, forcing the chance for Lacazette to open the scoring before assisting his side's further two goals.

"I wanted to see my team determined to come to this difficult ground against a really good team and do the things that we trained and show the spirit we showed again today," Arteta said.

"They've been training really well. For Gabriel, it was a big challenge to come to this small ground in the Premier League. I think he didn't play for six months with everything that happened in France.

"Mo Elneny again I thought did brilliant today. All the boys tried really hard; the ones that came on have to push these guys again."

He said of Lacazette, whose own future has been somewhat uncertain: "Yes, he is in my plans, he's a player I like a lot, but he knows he has Eddie [Nketiah] at his back, or next to him, I would say, and whoever is in better shape is going to play.

"It's the same for the rest of the team."

Arteta added that Rob Holding, who was tipped to join Newcastle United on loan, is now set to stay at Arsenal.

"I said to him 'change your mind because you're not going anywhere'," he said.

"Rob is another who stands for every value we want at the football club. He had a really difficult time but he trained and why would I have to let him go? He's already playing, what more do you want?"

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal debutant Willian matched famous feats from the club's history in the Gunners' 3-0 win against sorry Fulham on Saturday.

Following up their FA Cup and Community Shield triumphs, Mikel Arteta's side started their Premier League season in style at Craven Cottage.

Alexandre Lacazette got an eighth-minute opener, before Willian teed up his Brazilian compatriot and fellow new arrival Gabriel to score from a corner.

Willian had a second assist on his debut soon after when he played in Aubameyang, with the former Chelsea midfielder becoming the first Arsenal player to provide two assists on his Premier League bow for the club since Ray Parlour against Liverpool in August 1992.

Aubameyang's strike was also notable, as Opta confirmed he became the first Gunner to score on matchday one in consecutive Premier League campaigns since Robert Pires in 2003-04 and 2004-05.

The Gabon forward finished as Arsenal's top scorer last season, netting 31 goals in all competitions.

Arsenal's victory means the Gunners have have won their first match in successive Premier League seasons for the first time since doing so in each campaign from 2007-08 to 2009-10.

Arsenal made a convincing start to the new Premier League season as debutants Willian and Gabriel impressed in a 3-0 win at Fulham.

Willian set up Gabriel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score second-half goals after helping to force Alexandre Lacazette's unmissable opener.

Mikel Arteta's side lost their final two away league games of 2019-20 to Tottenham and Aston Villa, but victory at Craven Cottage was comfortably in their grasp as soon as Lacazette struck eight minutes in to become the first player to score the first goal of a Premier League season on two occasions.

Scott Parker's men enjoyed nearly half of the possession but offered scant threat to the Gunners' goal as the challenge facing last season's Championship play-off winners was laid bare.

Fulham started positively but fell behind in disappointing fashion, Lacazette tapping in after Marek Rodak had saved from Willian, all after Aubameyang had been allowed to chase and retrieve a loose ball in the hosts' box.

Willian almost scored his first Arsenal goal with his first shot, the Brazilian striking the base of the left-hand post from a free-kick on the edge of the box.

Gabriel, who been largely untroubled in defence in the first half, made a telling contribution at the other end four minutes into the second half, diverting Willian's corner past Rodak with his shoulder.

It was 3-0 before the hour mark, Willian switching play to Aubameyang after winning back the ball in the Fulham half and the Gunners striker curling a fine finish into the top-right corner.

Michael Hector cleared off the line to deny Aubameyang a second and prevent Fulham's first game back in the top flight from becoming worse.

What does it mean? Refreshed Gunners taking shape

Arteta will be delighted with the way Willian and Gabriel performed on debut, the former earning two assists - the first Arsenal player to do so on debut in the top flight since Ray Parlour in 1992 - and completing all but one of his 26 passes.

The game also means Arsenal have lost just once in seven competitive matches and ended a two-game losing run away from home in the top flight.

Fulham will need to improve sharply if their stay back in the Premier League is going to be a long one - they failed to muster a single shot on target until a tame effort from substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic 67 minutes in.

Gabriel keeps Gunners on solid ground

Although he was barely stretched by an insipid Fulham attack, this was an encouraging debut from new signing Gabriel.

He made two tackles, three clearances and a team-high 107 successful passes and deserved a bit of luck from Willian's corner as he became the 10th Arsenal player to score on his Premier League debut.

Hector helpless

Hector struggled all day to keep Aubameyang in check and he was a little fortunate not to receive a second booking for blocking the striker's promising run, although he did manage one key block.

What's next?

Arsenal host West Ham next Saturday, while Fulham are in EFL Cup action at Ipswich Town in four days' time.

Mikel Arteta believes Willian is the player who can drive Arsenal towards a push for more silverware and a top-four finish.

Willian, 32, signed a three-year deal with Arsenal in August after leaving Chelsea as a free agent.

The playmaker – who joined Chelsea from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013 – scored 37 goals and provided 33 assists in 234 Premier League appearances for the Blues.

Arteta thinks the Brazil international will provide Arsenal's squad with much-needed balance, and he has no concerns over Willian's age or ambition.

"With all the conversations I've had with him, the thing that stands out is his ambition that he wants to be the man who can drive this team forward," Arteta told a news conference.

"Another thing with him is he is always available. Last season at Chelsea, you can see the amount of games he has played.

"I am not concerned at all. We need some balance in this squad. We have some really young talent.

"We need some experienced players who can just put the shirt on and start performing. If he is able to perform at that level for another three years, I think he has a great chance of achieving that but time will tell."

Arteta retired from playing in 2016 at the age of 34, with the former Everton and Arsenal midfielder having struggled with injuries in the final stages of his career, though he insisted Willian's situation is in no way comparable.

"He is much fitter [than I was]. Don't compare him with me, I am a bad example!" Arteta joked.

"We need to know our context. For us to sign that type of player at 20 or 21 at the moment is impossible. We need to adapt here.

"We need some players that can hit the ground straight away and others we need to develop them, and they need top players around them because that will increase their performance and their value."

While Willian will add further guile and experience to Arsenal's attack, Arteta may have a headache in regards to the other end of the pitch, with Bernd Leno and Emiliano Martinez – who impressed at the end of last season – fighting for a spot in goal.

Arteta, whose side start their league campaign against Fulham on Saturday, is not concerned over either player being unhappy playing second fiddle, though reports on Friday suggested Martinez may be nearing a move to Aston Villa.

"The positive thing is we have a goalkeeper in Emiliano who for 10 years has been so patient, he has made some difficult choices to earn the right where he is at the moment," Arteta said.

"Since I joined he has been superb, his performance increased dramatically and he helped us to win titles. For me it's a really good problem to have.

"They both need to know their roles. At the end of the day the other one has to support the one who is playing 100 per cent. If you cannot do that you cannot be part of a top squad and you should not be here."

Mikel Arteta is still waiting to learn where he fits into Arsenal's transfer structure following the departure of Raul Sanllehi, but he defended the club's expenditure amid redundancies and pay cuts.

Arteta, whose FA Cup winners face Premier League champions Liverpool in the Community Shield on Saturday, is overseeing his first pre-season as head coach at Emirates Stadium.

But the former Gunners captain is not yet entirely sure of how he fits into the set-up during the transfer window, even as Arsenal have already signed Willian and closed on a deal for Gabriel Magalhaes.

Head of football Sanllehi departed earlier this month, with managing director Vinai Venkatesham taking control.

"It's something that we are discussing at the moment," Arteta said.

"First of all, I want to wish Raul all the best, all my respect and admiration, because I worked alongside him and enjoyed working with him.

"The club made that decision, a very difficult decision, as well. But the way he left the club, I think he honoured them. Everybody had nice words towards him.

"Now we have to figure out what is the best way to run our football club on the sporting side. That's what we are trying to do while trying to achieve as well all of the targets that we have for this transfer market."

Arsenal's business has been complicated further by disapproval of their spending while announcing 55 staff redundancies.

The first-team squad also took a pay cut during football's shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, although Mesut Ozil refused and was critical of "pressure" from the club.

As Arsenal aim to complement the arrivals of Willian and Gabriel with a costly new contract for captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arteta said: "I understand.

"If you look only from a financial point of view, you can get some contradictory messages.

"But what is clear is the club had a very thorough plan for how to restructure our club in order to function better and to be more stable for the future.

"They were very convincing with the argument that they gave to all of us that it was the right thing to do.

"Obviously, [the redundancies are] really sad, and during the COVID period, we had to make the decision to get our players to contribute to the pay cut. One of the reasons was to maintain some of [the staff], as well.

"We're trying to do the right thing and the club is trying to protect the future of our club as much as possible.

"The players were happy to contribute to help the club in this difficult financial position. That doesn't mean that after you're going to have a say in every decision made by the club. It cannot work like that.

"At the end of the day, it was not an obligation, it was a choice whether you wanted to do it or not.

"We tried to do the right thing in a human way to help a club that has been supporting us, in my case, for many, many years, whether you were injured, sick, performing or not performing.

"We believed that it was the right thing to do, and then the club has to be free to try to fight for the future in the most positive and stable way."

However, Arteta acknowledged Arsenal must find "the right balance" with outgoing transfers, adding the club are "very aware" of the need to meet Financial Fair Play regulations.

Meanwhile, the coach would not confirm if any players will miss the Liverpool match due to self-isolation measures but said Arsenal "have some different problems".

Willian has backed Arsenal youngster Gabriel Martinelli to become one of the best players in the Premier League once he recovers from a long-term injury lay-off.

Martinelli joined Arsenal from Brazilian side Ituano last year and scored 10 goals in 26 games before damaging the cartilage in his left knee during a training session in June.

The 19-year-old, who has yet to be called up by his national side, underwent successful surgery last month and is not expected to return to training until the end of 2020.

Despite Martinelli's injury setback, compatriot Willian can see plenty of potential in the youngster's all-round game to go on and become one of the finest talents around.

"He has a great future, I think," Willian told Arsenal Digital. "He can be one of the best players in the Premier League, no doubt. 

"It's because of his quality and also without the ball you can see that he is always trying to help his team and do the job without the ball. So I think he can be one of the best players.

"I think when he starts to play again, I know he is injured now, but when he starts again, it's about time for him to go to the Brazilian national team."

Willian joined Arsenal last week on a free transfer after departing London rivals Chelsea and has reunited with another of his countrymen, centre-back David Luiz.

The pair won four major honours together for Brazil and Chelsea, and Willian is hoping to achieve similar success at Emirates Stadium.

"He's very happy," Willian said. "We played together in the national team, we played together at Chelsea, and now at Arsenal again. 

"I think we can do great things together, I hope so, but I'm very happy to be with him again.

"He said, 'Come to Arsenal, come to Arsenal, I want you to come!' So that was the conversation. He is a very nice guy, a top player and I'm very excited to play with him again.

"Of course [he helped in the past], many times. Many times when I had difficult times at Chelsea he was helping me a lot. 

"He is this kind of person that wants to help, especially young players without experience. He is the guy that helps everyone."

Willian is a quality signing who will improve Arsenal's squad but tying down captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to a new deal remains vital to the Gunners' chances of success, says Ashley Cole.

Brazil forward Willian made the short hop to Emirates Stadium from Chelsea, ending a seven-year association with the Blues to pen a three-year deal at their London rivals.

It marks the first signing of the window for head coach Mikel Arteta ahead of what will be his first full season in charge, with the Spaniard – who led Arsenal to FA Cup final glory against Chelsea – aiming to improve on an eighth-place finish in the Premier League.

Having won five major honours during his time with the Blues, Willian has the sort of pedigree Arsenal are looking for to start competing among the top four again, and potentially earn continental success in the Europa League next term.

But Cole, who represented both clubs and won the Europa League with Chelsea during his glittering career, says convincing prolific striker Aubameyang to extend a contract that runs out next June remains an important target for Arteta.

"Firstly, you have to take your hat off to Willian," Cole told Stats Perform News. "He was a great servant for Chelsea. Staying at one club for seven years is not easy, but he's done that and has brought a lot of trophies to Chelsea.

"He performed very well across those seven years and has been their best player at times this season. At the end of the day, the club decided he can go and he has decided to go to Arsenal.

"A lot of Chelsea fans will wish him well because he was a great servant and now he's going to help to improve Arsenal's squad.

"Aubameyang is also a great player and has proved how good he is with his goal ratio this season.

"He's very important to Arsenal's success this season in the FA Cup and Arteta will of course want his top players to stay while adding some more quality.

"They've done that with the Willian signing, so Arteta will know he wants to keep him and get in better players to add to that squad. It's important they keep him but that's down to Arteta and Aubameyang."

Willian's decision to end his time at Chelsea may have been partially influenced by the big-money additions Frank Lampard has been making to his squad.

Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner arrived from Ajax and RB Leipzig, respectively, while Bayer Leverkusen's attacking midfielder Kai Havertz continues to be linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge.

Cole, now working at Chelsea as an academy coach, hopes to see exciting talent Havertz at Stamford Bridge as part of a new-look attack.

"Frank has had a brilliant first season and added two players, and maybe Havertz as well," he added. "Our attacking threat is amazing and the fans will be happy.

"Hopefully they can add Havertz to make their attacking threat even more potent. It is a young squad, with young players who have top quality and have played in top leagues being added.

"It's good to see them at Chelsea and hopefully they can quickly integrate into the team ahead of next season."

Chelsea may have lost the FA Cup final but did manage to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League in Lampard's maiden campaign as boss.

Former England international Cole is glad to see to see a generation he played with and against given a chance at the top level.

"As young coaches, you never know until you're put in these situations," he said.

"Arteta has done a great job in transforming Arsenal into playing good football, making them good to watch.

"Lampard has done the same with some young players. I think it's a good sign that owners and chairmen are giving young coaches a chance without much experience.

"But young coaches can't gain experience unless they are given an opportunity."

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