It’s the Season of Aquarius at Chelsea ... or Sagittarius ... or Gemini ... or any other sign as long as it’s for a young, rising star. That is of course a gross oversimplification, but it’s undeniable that Chelsea are continuing to get younger and younger. On Saturday, Chelsea fielded the youngest starting lineup in our Premier League history, for example, while even captain César Azpilicueta took a backseat for just the third (3rd!) time since the end of the 2014-15 season.
As with the youth revolution as a whole, it’s obviously helping the implementation of the plan that Chelsea are collecting good results. But as Lampard points out, the veterans are contributing greatly to the cause as well, including a certain Willian, who was named captain for Saturday’s match in the absence of the aforementioned Captain Azpilicueta and Vice-captain Jorginho, who was suspended.
“I know Willian’s qualities from playing with him, but when I looked at Willy over the last couple of years he was in and out of the team and I’m not sure; from the outside I want to see him happy, I know him and he’s a happy, really easy-going lad who loves his football.”
Lampard and Willian played together for just one season at Chelsea, the boss’s last at the club and Willy’s first, but Willian’s excellence as a strong two-way attacking midfielder and winger isn’t exactly a secret.
But it’s not on the pitch that Willian’s making a big impact. His positive influence on the others around him is noteworthy as well — especially after the shenanigans he pulled during Conte’s tenure.
“When I looked at him at the start of the season, I saw him being huge for me and the way we want to play. Naturally, on the ball we all know his ability to go by one-v-one and shift people and then cross or get shots away is big.
“But the off-the-ball work he’s done is an absolutely outstanding example for Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic, for other young players and wingers who think the only part of the game is going past people and crossing or shooting. He does the other side brilliantly, with absolute humility, so he’s been a joy and one of the experienced players that’s really helping the young boys.
“The selfless side of the game is always a starting point for me. As we work as staff here, it’s how good can we be off the ball and think about on the ball afterwards. When you’ve got someone showing the example high up the pitch, that just reflects everywhere.”
Despite that importance, Willian’s continuing to hurtle towards a contract expiration, and the rumor mill remains deathly silent with regards to any new extension.
Lampard has made it clear a couple times already how much he values the 31-year-old, so he continues to hope that the club can work something out.
“I can’t get involved in the money, that’s up to the club, but I think everyone sees from what I’m saying, and I’m relying on him and picking him and he’s producing, I love him at this football club.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
It would appear quite clear where Lampard stands on this issue.