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Willian taking great pleasure in playing for Sarri’s Chelsea

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Chelsea winger Willian is playing much more under Sarri than under Conte

Burnley FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Instagram graffiti artist Willian led the team in number of appearances last season, and he set a new career high for goals scored, yet he still fell out rather hard with then manager Antonio Conte. But that is so last season!

This season, it’s all changed. Willian still leads the team in appearances — the only player to have played in every single match, including the Community Shield — but the difference is that he’s starting more often than not. In fact, Sunday’s match against Burnley was his ninth straight start in all competitions. We’ve seen such streaks from Willian before, including a 23-match run in the Time of Palpable Discord — his stamina and work rate is part of what made him such a great fit for both Mourinho and Conte — but he seems to be taking greater pleasure in these minutes than any others that may have come before in a Chelsea shirt.

It’s all down to the manager of course, and his proactive, positive football on the front foot.

“I feel confident. I have confidence from the manager. It’s a pleasure to play every game, to be on the pitch, to fight for this club, and I try to do that every time, in every game. I’m very happy because I can play every game and I’m trying to do my best football every game.

“We work very well, with the movements all over the pitch. Of course, in football you always have to improve, so we’re trying to do that. We feel very good. The players we have are players with a lot of quality and that’s good for the club.’

“We like the way [Sarri] works. We like that he wants us to play football, he wants us to have fun on the pitch. That’s what we want, but of course with the responsibility as well. I think we play good football this season. Of course, we can improve more, but I think we are in a very good way.

“He just said: ‘I want to play football. I want to see good football. I want you to enjoy yourselves on the pitch. I want to have fun.’ So for us it was good, because we really enjoy it now on the pitch. We play proper football. Every single player is happy to work with him. Every manager has his own philosophy to work, a different philosophy. The other ones are in the past, now we have to see what Sarri wants us to do and keep improving. That’s what we want to do.”

-Willian; source: Chelsea FC

Of course it’s helping that Sarri’s yet to lose a competitive match in charge of the Blues. No one complained about Conte’s automatisms, pragmatisms, and extended training sessions when we were winning 13 in a row either. The squad’s response will be interesting to see if and when we do hit a bit of a bump.

For now, as the wins keep coming, everything is just about perfect.

“I think we enjoyed the game and we played very well. From the beginning [Burnley] started very well. In the first 10 minutes we coped with the pressure and we were in control. Then we had the ball, we tried to just play, move the ball and have possession. I think we played a great game. They give a lot of space between the lines and behind the defensive line as well. We moved the ball, went into the spaces and always tried to do movements to score a goal, and that’s why we won 4-0. [...] We have players who are all playing very well and it’s good to have players performing like that.”

-Willian; source: Chelsea FC

In fact, Willian’s once again hoping to extend his contract and finish out his career in the SW6. He has two years left on the four-year deal he signed after winning Chelsea’s Player of the Year award in 2015-16, but he wants to stay for longer.

“I feel well here. I have the affection from the fans as well, I have a good relationship with all the people that work for the club, that’s why I want to stay here. Also because my family don’t want to leave. My family loves London and my wife’s the boss, that’s why I’m here, but I’m happy here too! Of course, I love to live here, my family loves to live in London, I love to play for Chelsea, everything is amazing. I’ve been here for five years and I hope to stay more. Everything is perfect.”

-Willian; source: Chelsea FC

Everything is amazing, everything is perfect. And then they lived happily ever after?