Since his arrival in the final week of the 2013 summer transfer window, Willian has become one of the elder statesmen of the squad, recently passing 200 appearances, even, for the club. And while he’s not been a nailed-on starter under Conte unlike under Mourinho and Hiddink, Willian has remained one of the appearance-leaders in the team. In fact, he continues to work on a rather impressive record of having failed to appear in just 1 of Chelsea’s last 56 !) competitive matches, the 5-1 League Cup win over Nottingham Forest earlier this season.
But Willian, like all other players, wants to maximize his own minutes and wants to start more often than being a late-game substitute, so despite his regular match-action, he’s been increasingly linked with an exit from Cheslea sooner rather than later.
But in an interview given to Simon Johnson of the Evening Standard after last night’s game, Willian has calmed any concerns about anything of the sort happening ... at least for now.
“I am always happy at Chelsea. I really like this club a lot with my heart. The fans can be calm [about me leaving]. I am a Chelsea player and I am very pleased with the way I have been playing in recent weeks.
“When I play I always try to do my best. I try to help the team to play well, to score goals and make assists. Against Huddersfield I did that with my team-mates.”
Willian has 5 goals and 4 assists in limited minutes over the past month to back up those claims on the statsheet as well. While not known most for his goalscoring prowess, the 29-year-old has put together back-to-back season with double-digit goals (including a career-high 12 last year), and he looks well on his way to making it a third in a row this season.
Unfortunately, one thing that doesn’t look to be repeating itself is Chelsea’s Premier League title, with an 11-point gap (which probably will be 14 in a few hours) separating the defending champions from all-conquering Manchester City. This is a frustrating situation for Willian — especially given the three shock losses Chelsea have suffered this season in losing to Burnley (at home), Crystal Palace, and West Ham — but he’s not ready to quite write off the chance of a miracle collapse happening to Pep Guardiola’s team.
“I feel sad because we lost these (three) games. The team that want to be champions can’t lose these kind of games. We know we didn’t play like we usually do. We didn’t play these matches very well because we made mistakes and the opposition scored goals.
“Am I frustrated because the gap should be closer? Yes. It is a big gap but we have to fight until the end. There are a lot of games to play and anything can happen. We will never give up. We have to always continue.”
“We are Chelsea, we are a big club and we always want to win every game. On Saturday we had a bad game and lost against West Ham. But against Huddersfield, we turned the situation around and played very well.
“We know the gap to Manchester City is 11 points, they play tonight, but we have to keep going until the end of the season.”
-Willian; source: Evening Standard
Realistically, the Premier League is lost. But this sort of attitude should serve him and the rest of the squad in the quest for winning at least one of the three major trophies also available to Chelsea.