Chelsea over the festive period unleashed a new weapon on the Premier League. That weapon was thought by many, myself included, to simply be a “tactical” purchase last summer by Jose Mourinho to prevent the player from joining Tottenham Hotspur. That player’s name is Willian.
The Brazilian winger could play a key role this weekend against Manchester United if selected by Mourinho. The style long advocated by the Chelsea manager involves two-way players who can move the ball quickly and also defend well. Towards the end of the summer window, Willian’s acquisition from cash-starved Anzhi gave the Chelsea manager an attacking option that fits his style. While at the time many believed this was largely a spiteful move towards Andre Vilas-Boas and Spurs, the signing has proven to be inspired.
Blending Willian into the team over time was always going to cost Juan Mata and also André Schürrle playing time. But my thinking was that Willian was simply being paid to not play for Spurs and to provide cover for the team. Instead he’s become a key figure in bigger matches for the Blues. His work rate and willingness to track opposing players into the defensive half have made him a perfect fit for Mourinho’s preferred style of soccer.
Willian’s defensive work rate comes in addition to his creativity, which has manufactured more chances for Chelsea over the last six games than any midfielder for the Blues outside of Eden Hazard. The increased creativity of the Chelsea’s wide players have created a situation where defenders are being pinned back, having to compensate for the runs of Willian and Hazard.
Two months ago, the idea of Willian being as key figure in the Chelsea-Manchester United was unthinkable. Instead he has become one of the most influential figures at Stamford Bridge in a short period of time. His signing and subsequent integration into the Chelsea side proves once again Jose Mourinho is never to be doubted with judging players and playing the transfer market.
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