After signing for £32million from Anzhi Makhachkala in the summer, Chelsea fans would surely have expected more bang from their buck from Willian.
With just two league goals to his name thus far, the Brazilian has hardly taken the Premier League by storm in his debut season. Although time should usually be afforded to players arriving in English football, a certain expectation arises when they are signed for such a substantial fee.
According to statistics published on ESPN, Willian has so far contributed a total of six assists in all competitions. Normally this would be considered a healthy return in a debut campaign but Chelsea fans surely have a right to expect more from their £32m man.
Anticipation over Willian’s signing was enhanced by the much publicised tug-of-war for his signature. When Tottenham Hotspur looked like they had finally landed their man, Jose Mourinho stepped in and convinced the Brazilian to join his project at Stamford Bridge.
Remarkably, the player had already undergone a medical at White Hart Lane only to duck out of the move at the very last minute. The controversial episode led Mourinho to recommend that “the best thing you can do is do the medical in secret.”
However, as it stands, Spurs fans will likely not be suffering too many sleepless nights over the snub. In Erik Lamela, the club has their own £30m winger that has room for improvement.
Granted, to liken Willian’s impact to Lamela is unfair to the former. But the Brazilian needs to start producing more of an end product. When it comes down to it, goal and assist totals are ultimately what attacking midfielders are judged by.
It is clear that Mourinho values Willian’s work rate and endeavour in the wide area. The sale of Chelsea’s former Player of the Year Juan Mata for not offering more in a defensive capacity demonstrates the emphasis that the Chelsea manager places upon these aforementioned characteristics.
In this regard, the Brazilian has been successful in tracking back and providing the defensive cover that Mourinho demands. Statistics published in the Daily Mail for the February fixtures against Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion reveal the extent of Willian’s work rate.
In the Blues’ FA Cup victory at the Etihad, the Brazilian covered 7.2 miles and was only surpassed in his team by the midfield pair of Nemanja Matic and Ramires. The draw at West Brom produced similar results, with Matic on this occasion being the only team-mate to best Willian’s total of 7.1 miles.
As Mourinho continues to adjust the flawed yet free-flowing side he inherited into a more functional and solid unit, Willian has arguably proven to be an integral component of this transition.
Whether these defensive duties have been to the detriment of his attacking output, we can only speculate. But even in today’s inflated transfer market, £32m should purchase something more than a workhorse.
Willian’s lack of end product has been emphasised further by the contribution of fellow summer arrival Andre Schurrle. In 23 league appearances, of which only ten have been starts, the German has notched an impressive seven goals.
With Mohamed Salah signing in January, the competition for attacking midfield slots in Chelsea’s starting eleven is fierce. Willian’s work rate will give him the nod in certain fixtures but unless he improves upon his attacking output, surely the Brazilian will find himself on the substitutes bench before long.
The performances of Arsenal’s £42.4m signing Mesut Ozil have come under greater scrutiny than Willian’s in the national press. But with four goals and eight assists in 22 league appearances, the former Real Madrid star has contributed far more in the attacking third than Chelsea’s signing from Anzhi.
Although there is evidently more to his game, it is hard to argue that Willian has been anything other than a flop so far.
In the way that strikers are maligned for a lack of goals, as an attacking midfielder the Brazilian should be criticised for failing to provide the necessary creative outlet.