The Unsung Hero of Stamford Bridge

The summer of 2013 was an exciting time for the Stamford Bridge supporters. An abundance of attacking talent having been signed to strengthen a forward line already boasting the likes of Oscar, the Spanish playmaker Juan Mata and Belgian wing-wizard Eden Hazard. Along with news that Jose Mourinho would be returning to the club that propelled him to new heights for a second spell, all was looking well for the West London outfit. Having identified Andre Schurrle as his main transfer target and assuring Kevin de Bruyne of a place in the first team, Chelsea were well stocked in the attacking department that could have been compared to the best squads Europe had to offer.

The transfer window has always guaranteed moments of magic as it entered its twilight hours. The 2013 window was in the form of Willian. The now 27 year old Brazilian was on his way to the north London club Tottenham Hotspur to sign a five year contract but one phone call changed everything. The Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich made a phone call to his fellow Russian, Suleyman Kerimov, the Anzhi Makhachkala owner to complete a deal for a slightly higher fee and the rest is history. Once the transfer was over the line, the new man proclaimed his long standing desire to play for the Blues:

It’s been a dream of mine to come and play here. Chelsea is one of the best clubs in the world and I am going to play for one of the best managers in the world too”.

Looks like Mourinho cast a spell on yet another transfer target on the verge of joining a rival club only to backtrack and sign for the West London club (The Guardian, 2013).

It has been 3 years since the move from Russia to London and the former Shaktar Donetsk playmaker  has only grown from strength to strength. A tenacious, hard-working winger, Willian has never been shy from putting in a shift and has been applauded for his outstanding work-rate for his teams, tracking back at every opportunity whilst bursting forward when on the front foot. His first season yielded 4 goals and 2 assists in all competitions. These statistics eclipse the determined work Willian has put in for his team. His movement, creativity and shot taking reminisced the former Chelsea winger and Dutch maestro Arjen Robben . He has created 64 chances over 25 games winning 48% of his one-on-one duels with a 48% shot accuracy. The Brazilian was constantly developing his all round game but lacked any serious thorough output (Squawka, 2016). The 2014/15 season may have brought in silverware for Chelsea, but the stats showed a steady decline. With 11 more games under his belt, his shot accuracy and chance creation reduced to 39% and 49 chances created (3 converted into assists) but anyone that had watched Willian that season could see how his statistics paint an entirely different picture. Jose Mourinho sets up his teams to defend first, attack second.

The long serving, versatile stalwart Branislav Ivanovic was instructed to bomb forward with his Spanish counterpart Cesar Azpilicueta instructed to sit back and cover the attacking prowess of Eden Hazard who was in the best form of his career acting as the catalyst to every Chelsea attack, thus leaving Willian to cover the Serbian fullback. His 2015/16 statistics haven’t equalled or bettered Eden Hazard’s of 2014/15 season but neither has Hazard himself. We are at the halfway stage of the season and Willian has already created 45 chances which equates to 3 assists and 42 key passes played across 20 games in the premier league. His major exploits have come in the Champions League where he scored 5 goals from 6 games, including the winner against Dynamo Kyiv in the 83rd minute.

Willian may not have been the star studded signing Chelsea fans have been accustomed to seeing walk in through the gates of Stamford Bridge in recent years but he has definitely proved to be a fine acquisition and the 30 million investment is finally paying off. We have seen spells of brilliance from the gifted and talented front 4 – the recent 3-0 victory against Crystal Palace, reminded everyone what an on song Chelsea can do but more often than not they lack the craft and urgency that was evident all of last season. The ever present Brazilian winger capped off another brilliant performance with a goal to kill the game with a gorgeous screamer 30 yards out. If there is a criticism to be made of the Brazilian winger, it is that he must become more ruthless at times and score a few goals from open play. Other than what has been a poor season for the SW6 club, Willian has been the rare shining beacon and is arguably Chelsea’s best player this season.

 

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