After leading Chelsea with 55 appearances in all competitions last season, Willian has the chance to better that personal record by 1 if he plays against Arsenal in the Europa League final next week.
Sarri gave regular starts to Willian in the early stages of the season — a welcome change for the winger after Conte’s rotation — especially when it seemed that Willian had mastered Sarri’s famous 33 set piece routines. But a combination of poor form and Pedro’s superior goalscoring ability, not to mention Callum Hudson-Odoi’s emergence after the turn of the calendar year, meant that Willian has become increasingly restricted to midweek Europa League and domestic cup duties as part of the second-choice squad, with few starts sprinkled here and there in the league.
The 30-year-old, who’s closing in on 300 appearances for the club, admits it’s not been his best season, though a nice shiny trophy at the end could make it look a bit better.
“I know that it has not been my best season. It was OK, but it wasn’t top. I know I can play much better. Not only me, but the whole squad, it wasn’t our best season. We all know we can do better.
“But at the end we set some targets and we reached some of them. We reached the Carabao Cup Final, reached the third position in the Premier League and now we have the Europa League Final to play.
“If you see at the end and we win the trophy, then I think it’s been a good season. We have qualified for the Champions League and can win a European trophy which is a good season, even though we always want more.”
A lot has been said about the choice of venue for this final, with fans facing unreasonable demands in terms of finances, travel, and logistics, but for the players, the focus must be on the game itself.
Inside the Europa league final stadium this year... I hope Chelsea fans that have decided to travel have taken the binoculars pic.twitter.com/C9v0VUILaK— CarefreeYouth (@CarefreeYouth) May 24, 2019
At the end of the day, the game may be in Baku, Azerbaijan, but it will still be a London Derby with two rivals facing off and the winner taking it all.
It is the last and only chance for Arsenal to gain entry into next year’s Champions League — Chelsea’s 3rd place finish in the league already guarantees us a spot — and that should serve as easy motivation for them already. For Chelsea, whose mentality has been repeatedly questioned by the head coach (and outside observers, too) all season, it will be all about the silverware, and of course the rivalry.
“We are already motivated because it’s always good to win finals, always good to win trophies and this group of players has done that for many years. We want to win this trophy so much and we have to go there and make sure we come back with the trophy.
“It’s a derby game, against Arsenal — who have a great team with great players, and we have to do everything possible to win. It’s always difficult to play against them. It will be a very difficult game and we have to do everything possible to win.
“Don’t worry, the motivation is high for us as well. This isn’t about the Champions League for us. We want to win another trophy, a European trophy. It’s going to be a very good game and we believe we can do it.”
- Willian; source: Mirror
So, no worries, right?