After scoring just once in four games, Chelsea’s misfiring attack burst into life against Brighton on Saturday. It took just six minutes for the Blues to sail to a two-goal lead and their second strike was something uniquely special; a telepathic pattern of play between their three forwards as Eden Hazard backheel the ball into the path of Michy Batshuayi, who then backheeled it to Willian for a sumptuous finish past a helpless Mat Ryan.
Although Hazard stole the show with a well-taken brace, the Brazilian was a relentless menace all afternoon, continuously causing problems for the Seagulls’ porous backline. Tellingly, he produced the most shots on target and created the most chances of any Chelsea player, while completing 88% of his passes in a vibrant attacking performance.
Which all begs the question of why the 29-year-old has been used so inconsistently by Antonio Conte this season, starting as many games as he’s been benched for in the top flight – twelve apiece. Much of that is due to the Chelsea manager tweaking his usual game-plan this season to create a 3-5-2, with Alvaro Morata and Hazard featuring up top, but Premier League performances simply haven’t vindicated that modification to the Blues’ title-winning 3-4-3 setup.
Chelsea have averaged 2.1 goals per game while using 3-4-3 in the top flight this season and produced a 71% win rate, but using 3-5-2, those figures drop to 1.5 goals per game and just a 50% win rate. Willian’s performance against Brighton on Saturday was clear testament as well; Chelsea are at their most rampant when they have three forwards on the pitch who can stretch the opposition – but especially Willian whose energy and pace continually created space for Hazard on the opposite flank.
So Chelsea fans, has Willian proved the Blues must use 3-4-3 for the rest of the season, or do you prefer to see the west Londoners line up with five in midfield? Let us know by voting below…