Like many people, my initial reaction to the Willian rumours was that it seemed like a waste of resources when we've already got a stack of great wingers/attacking midfielders. Why wouldn't we use that money to reinforce a weaker area of the squad (like CB or CF). However, the more I started to think about it, the more I came around to the idea that the club might actually have done exactly that.
Let's think back to July when Mourinho said the following:
"Fernando is a striker, nobody has doubts about it, but I think he's a striker more comfortable when he has space behind defenders. He has it more difficult when opponents are very close, when opponents are compact and when he has to play in small spaces."
"He's more a player to go into a space than to play with the ball at his feet."
He then went on to say that this applies to Ba and Lukaku too. Which is true - Lukaku, Torres and, to a lesser extent, Ba are all at their best when they have the opportunity to run in behind the defence. Part of the reason for targeting Rooney during this transfer window is that he does not fit this description. He's comfortable with the ball at his feet and more than capable of making something happen when the opposition sit deep and don't give him much space to work with - a tactic that many teams employ against Chelsea.
Earlier in the week, Jose revealed that he had a 'plan B' if United scupper the pursuit of his first choice. Admittedly he has access to a slightly wider scouting network than I do, but I can't think of another striker that's both available and particularly useful against teams that are parking the bus. There are a number of poachers and other guys that need space to be at their best, but short of going back in time and signing Aguero I'm struggling to identify a reasonable plan B.
A number of people have suggested that using Hazard as a false-9 to 'solve' this problem, but I think that would be a pretty big mistake. His best attribute (in my opinion) is his ability to run with the ball towards the goal and put defenders under pressure to make a tackle. Whilst I'm sure Eden could do a satisfactory job as a false-9, such a role would require him to spend more time running away from the goal than towards it, which seems like a less effective use of his talents than playing him on the wing.
As far as I'm concerned, the key requirements from the Plan B are as follows:
- Long-range shooting
- Contribution to the short, quick passing interchanges with Hazard, Mata, Oscar et al
- Enough of a scoring threat to force defenders to track him
Fortunately, there is already somebody that is (in my opinion) particularly strong in all of these areas and already on the roster. I think the ideal Plan B could very well be Andre Schurrle.
As Stephen pointed out earlier, signing Willian has meant that in order to add another striker, Chelsea will either have to sell a non-homegrown player or limit themselves to somebody local. If Rooney materialises, that's not a concern. If not, however, they've left themselves with a lot of work to do and not much time to get it done. Unless, of course, that striker is already on the roster.
The Willian signing also makes more sense in the context of a position change for Schurrle. Moving Andre to CF leaves a good rotation of Hazard, Willian, De Bruyne and Moses on the wings and Mata and Oscar at #10. This is, of course, entirely speculation, but I think Mourinho could do a lot worse than adding Schurrle to the mix if he can't get hold of Wayne in the next week.