At the beginning of the season, many might have expected that veteran winger Willian would be phased out of the team by now by one of his younger counterparts, perhaps Christian Pulisic or Callum Hudson-Odoi or maybe even Mason Mount. But that would ignore Willian’s record of beating out more players than we could care to count at right wing in the six years he’s been at Chelsea.
As he’s done every time since 2013, Willian has stepped up his game when faced with new challenges and fresh competition. He may be 31 years old now, but he’s been in scintillating form since recovering from a summertime hamstring injury, wasting no time in acclimating himself to Frank Lampard’s methods and tactics, and helping the club get over our transfer ban and Eden Hazard’s transfer.
Of course, the work doesn’t stop just because we’ve made a good start to the season.
“I think we understood the message Lampard has been giving us. What he gives to us in training. And we are putting it into practice in games.
“We can’t rest, thinking that we are already doing a great job. We have to keep evolving. Many didn’t believe in us, right? Of what we could do. We’re doing a great job. We have to continue in the same way, knowing that we have not won anything yet. Keep our feet on the ground and keep working.”
While some things have stayed the same despite all the changes from last season, one obvious difference has been the style of football that Chelsea have been playing.
Frank Lampard preaches aggressive, up-tempo, high-pressing football, which allows a greater degree of freedom and creativity to the players. And that’s just fine by Willian, who did not enjoy the restrictions of the last couple managers nearly as much.
“Lampard has been giving me complete confidence, always talking to me. Since the beginning of the season he said he wanted to see me happy, to see me smiling, to see me playing the way I know how to play and giving me the freedom to move around, doing what I wanted. Unlike last season, when the game system was a little different, when I didn’t have so much freedom to keep moving.
“And this season is being different, I think this freedom I’m having makes my football appear more and more. This has been happening, so I’m very happy to be able to add to the team in this way, playing in this way, leading to Chelsea having positive results.”
-Willian; source: ESPN Brasil
One thing that hasn’t changed since the summer is Willian’s contract situation. He’s almost into the last six months of his current deal, and the likes of Barcelona are sniffing around again — and this time without having to meet Chelsea’s asking price. While both he and the manager have been making positive comments, the club appear to be in no hurry to work out an extension since seemingly shelving such talks at the start of the calendar year.
But one thing is clear. Willian has plenty left to offer on the pitch, to either Chelsea or someone else, and letting him walk for free is surely a terrible business decision. So let’s sign him up!