Chelsea Focus – Willian hijacking as Mata chatter lingers

It’s two wins from two Premier League games for Chelsea and Jose Mourinho but the club’s second victory inside four days did not come as straightforwardly as the first, as a bright Aston Villa relentlessly harassed the hosts for the full 90 minutes.

Despite Paul Lambert’s side’s promising performance, they ultimately succumbed to the Blues, with an own goal from Antonio Luna and a bullet header from Branislav Ivanovic enough to give Chelsea the three points. Demba Ba and Juan Mata made their first starts of the season and neither particularly nailed down their chances of more regular outings.

Mata’s situation is particularly puzzling. The Blues’ best player by some distance over the last campaign, the summer has been crammed with rumours regarding a potential exit from Stamford Bridge. His exploits against Villa – from an unnatural position out wide – were mediocre at best, before his eventual withdrawal just after the hour mark.

The Spaniard – like fellow transfer news favourite David Luiz – has been on the sidelines recently suffering from a thigh problem, and so his stuttering performance may well be put down to his lack of match practice.

However, speculation is still rife that Mourinho is keen to move Mata on, with Anzhi Makhachkala’s attacking midfielder Willian mooted as a prospective like-for-like switch. The story immediately stirs suspicion – Tottenham were believed to be on the verge of sealing the Brazilian’s services and this could be a strategic move by his agent Kia Joorabchian, who could be looking to shake a few extra pennies out of Daniel Levy and Spurs.

In addition to that, Chelsea’s squad is already loaded with attacking midfielders, all of whom are already vying for just three spots: Eden Hazard, Mata, Oscar, Andre Schurrle, Kevin De Bruyne, Victor Moses and Marco van Ginkel. To insert another name into this illustrious list would be astonishingly hasty – particularly with other areas of the squad arguably more in need of some housekeeping.

Which presents another point: if the Willian chatter is genuine, could the ex-Shakhtar man be one of Mourinho’s back-up plans if his drawn out pursuit of Wayne Rooney fails? Though not known for his goal-scoring, Willian could be utilised as a false nine, therefore leaving plenty of room in the squad for Juan Mata and his team mates.

Alternatively, the twice-capped playmaker could line up on the wing, therefore allowing Mata to rotate with Hazard and De Bruyne just off Chelsea’s striker.

Whatever Mourinho decides to do in the final days of the transfer window, Chelsea will not be short of options going forward. With or without Willian, Juan Mata’s subtlety and consistency are indispensable qualities.

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