Willian has been slated nearly all season long due to his poor performances for Arsenal, but Troy Deeney believes Nicolas Pepe deserves more criticism than his Gunners teammate.
Brazil winger Willian, 32, has come under pressure for his below par showings since joining Arsenal on a free transfer from Chelsea last summer.
Willian is yet to score in 23 appearances and has lost his regular starting place due to the great form of youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
However, Watford captain Deeney is adamant Pepe, Arsenal’s club record £72million signing from Lille in 2019, should be questioned more than Willian.
He told Monday’s talkSPORT Breakfast: “I think everyone loses confidence at some point.
“Everyone will say, ‘he [Willian] hasn’t moved far’, because it’s Arsenal and Chelsea, they’re both in London, but it’s a new environment with different people.
“When he was at Chelsea was he the main man? Probably not. Was there a lot of expectation? Probably not.
“Now he’s gone in there and they’re expecting him to deliver a mentality that he may not be able to do.
“What’s happened is he’s started taking the kicking that Pepe deserves.
“Pepe has been there longer than him; there was a lot of money spent on him and he hasn’t really delivered over the course of the time.
“If you’re going to spend £70m-plus, you expect to have done a background search to understand the guy’s temperament. How long do we give it?”
Deeney believes Willian is facing stronger criticism than Pepe because he is a more experienced player.
“Listen, there have been unbelievable quality players that have been in the Premier League and it hasn’t clicked,” added Deeney. “English football is massively different.
“I remember [Juan Sebastian] Veron going to Man United; an unbelievable player, but it never quite clicked for him.
“I do think you look at your [Joe] Willocks and your [Reiss] Nelsons, they can come in and come out because they’re young and don’t have an expectation.
“We’ve already created an expectation [for Pepe and Willian]; it comes with the money and the wages these players are reportedly on, that we go, ‘you’ve got to deliver’.
“But Nelson was highly-rated last year after going out on loan and coming back, he was going to be the one to kick on.
“They’ve been taken over by Saka and Smith Rowe and no one is mentioning it.
“But it’s just part of the process, because we say, ‘Willian has won all these things, he’s a Brazil International; Pepe’s worth this much, they’ve got to be to this standard’.
“But all in all, they play for the same team and they’re trying to get the same starting berth.
“So the expectation has to go all the way around, but as we know in this game, the older lads get [criticism] a bit.”