Willian is making a habit of turning up late and mixing things up. Having made the decision late in the day to turn down Tottenham Hotspur in favour of a move to Chelsea this summer, the Brazilian announced himself to the Premier League in similarly eleventh-hour fashion on Sunday afternoon.
With the Blues tied with Norwich City at Carrow Road going into the final 10 minutes, their form on the road looked set to take another jolt. Indeed, the Canaries were growing in confidence, keen to secure the victory for themselves.
Enter Willian. Jose Mourinho flung the playmaker onto the pitch in a straight swap for Juan Mata, in a last attempt to break down Chris Hughton’s side for a second time. He didn’t have to wait too long for that decision to bear fruits.
The ex-Anzhi Makhachkala and Shakhtar Donetsk man had a vital hand in the Blues’ second goal of the afternoon, nodding into the path of the sublime Oscar as Eden Hazard scored on the counter attack.
Just a minute later, his effective cameo performance was embellished via a sumptuous left-footed strike. Picking up a loose ball on the corner of the penalty area, Willian bent the ball with great finesse out of the reach of John Ruddy and into the top right-hand corner of his goal. Chelsea had made sure of the three points in a match they could have easily seen slip away six minutes beforehand.
Willian’s arrival at Stamford Bridge, and £30m price tag, was baulked at by many. Some believed he was bought simply to spite fellow top four rivals Spurs, while others questioned the acumen in paying such a colossal transfer fee for him when Chelsea were already more than well-stocked when it came to attacking midfielders.
But, even at this early point in the campaign, the advantages are being seen. First and foremost, Willian is a sublime footballer; a natural on the ball with fantastic agility and balance to boot. Arguably, he offers Mourinho something that the rest of his attacking hand can’t: a compromise between the outright dynamism of an Eden Hazard and the diminutive trickiness of a Juan Mata.
As well as that, Chelsea’s squad – some areas of which are deeper than the Mariana Trench – can easily deal with fluctuations in form and fitness. Mata was average against the Canaries at the weekend, while Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o again failed to find the net. But Willian was the man to step up and fill those shortcomings this week. Oscar looked exhausted upon the final whistle at Carrow Road, so it will be hoped that next week someone can make their own case again.
Perhaps Oscar’s fatigue could even mean a start for Willian at Cardiff in a couple of weeks. He may enjoy the luxury of more time.
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