Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho added to his multitude of attacking midfield talents this afternoon with the acquisition of Willian from Russian outfit Anzhi on a five-year contract. Having undergone a medical with Tottenham last week, the 25-year-old’s change of heart sees him roll up to Stamford Bridge instead, with the Blues shelling out a reported £32m for his services. The Brazilian is the fourth player to arrive at the club this summer, following the capture of Andre Schurrle, Marco Van Ginkel and Mark Schwarzer.
After receiving a work permit earlier today, the midfielder sat down with the club’s official website to talk about his expectations for the season ahead:
I intend to help the team as much as I can in order to be successful. I want to train hard, work hard and give everything to earn my place in the side. This is a very strong team with great players. I hope I am going to start matches very strongly and help the team do the best we can, whether that’s through scoring goals, creating chances or defending.
A product of the Corinthians youth system, Willian’s career began back in 2006. Over the course of two seasons, he produced two goals and a pair of assists from 16 first-team appearances before making his way to Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer of 2007.
After a slow start two assists in 20 appearances in his first term, the playmaker gradually found his feet and registered 10 goals and 10 assists over 51 matches in the next two years. The following couple of campaigns saw Willian flourish as a creative force – while he only notched eight goals over 20101/11 and 2011/12, his 26 assists were crucial to his side’s success.
Last year harvested two goals and six assists from 14 appearances for Shakhtar before Anzhi came calling midway through the season, with a €35m too good to refuse. Willian managed a single goal and four assists over 11 matches but with the Anzhi owners keen to offload many of their big-money buys, he was sold on after just seven months at the club.
The Brazilian’s arrival merely compounds matters as Fantasy managers attempt to get a handle on Mourinho’s selection policy. So far, Eden Hazard and Oscar have started all three of Chelsea’s league games under the Portuguese boss but, as Mourinho’s decision to field Schurrle up top for the opening 60 minutes against United on Monday showed, any given Gameweek has the potential to hand us an unexpected surprise.
With Kevin De Bruyne and Juan Mata also vying for contention, many may even choose to simply opt out of snapping up a Blues midfielder. The numerous options available to the Chelsea boss hint at a degree of rotation potentially greater than any other club in the league, with plenty of more secure options on offer elsewhere.
Tellingly, Mourinho spoke of ”mobility” being key to his starting selection at Old Trafford – perhaps a damning indictment of the likes of Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku but certainly positive for Willian. A pacey, dynamic player, he was mainly utilised on the left of a 4-2-3-1 at Shakhtar but shifted to the right and centre of the same tactical set-up at Anzhi, offering options right across the three attacking midfield positions.
As the stats showed, Willian is hardly renowned for his goalscoring prowess, though, with five strikes his highest haul in any season over those years in the Ukraine. Likely to come in around 8.5 to 9.5 in Fantasy Premier League FPL, it seems that the Brazilian could be alternated on a game-to-game basis, either starting or climbing off the bench with no real consistency of selection – Mourinho’s use of Schurrle, De Bruyne and Mata has already proven we can take nothing for granted.
Frustratingly, a move to Tottenham would surely have handed us a real contender for our five-man midfields. A role in “the hole” behind Roberto Soldado in light of Gareth Bale’s expected departure looked a hugely enticing proposition; at Stamford Bridge, however, Willian, for all his undoubted abilities, simply looks in danger of getting lost amongst the crowd.