Many football fans and journalists expected Anzhi’s Willian to sign for Spurs in the coming days, particularly in light of the fact that Gareth Bale is allegedly nearing completion of a deal to Real Madrid. The optimism surrounding a potential move for Willian though has been dampened by the fact that Chelsea are now apparently keen on a £30 million bid for the Brazilian play-maker. But with a host of play-makers already in the Chelsea squad, do they need Willian?
Where does Willian play?
Chelsea have tracked Willian for some time now, having reportedly been interested in his services ever since he was at Shakhtar Donetsk. At Shakhtar he played off the left in a 4-2-3-1 formation, not dissimilar to the way Chelsea play now. Cutting in from the left onto his favoured right foot and looking to create chances for his team-mates as well as influence the play in an attacking capacity. At 25 years old he is clearly a player who is moving into his prime, but his goal scoring record is not particularly good. During his time at Ukraine he scored just 20 league goals in 140 games, not a very productive return for such an attacking midfielder.
He is probably Anzhi’s best player at the moment, although the side are badly struggling, second from bottom in the Russian league. His 4.3 dribbles per game are the highest in the side, as are the four chances he creates per game for his team-mates. This is where he is really effective, in taking on players and creating chances, although again his goal scoring contribution is not quite good enough for all of the creative ability he possesses.
Most problematic of all is that his favoured role on the left is the position that is currently Eden Hazard’s. The Belgian has made that role his own since moving to Chelsea, cutting in off the left hand side, or even hitting the by-line with his great pace and skill, he has a better goal scoring record than Willian scoring 9 goals in 36 league games for Chelsea.
This is one of the main issues with the reported deal. Chelsea have a plethora of players who can play in the supporting roles; Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Andre Schurrle, Victor Moses, Kevin De Bruyne and Oscar all competing for those roles as it is, without having an extra body in the mix. Worse still, if Chelsea sign Wayne Rooney, then he is another body who can feature in this role. If Willian wants to play in the World Cup in 2014 it would be a bizarre career move to go to Chelsea, where he won’t necessarily get much game time. At Spurs though he’d likely feature in the first team, with far less competition for places.
One angle explored by some newspapers is that Jose Mourinho doesn’t want Juan Mata, something that he and the player have refuted on a number of occasions. Even if this is the case Willian is not a replacement for Mata. Mata is seen as the player to play on the right for Chelsea, cutting in on his left foot, the opposite of what Willian does. Willian would be featuring from the left flank, or centrally, not cutting in from the right as effectively as a left footer can. In terms of balance any move to sell Mata would leave Chelsea with no left footed attacking midfielder, which would deprive Mourinho of this dimension that he tends to like to use.
Willian is clearly a very talented footballer and one who can really make his mark in the Premier League if he makes the move to England. That being said, a move to Chelsea would not really make any sense for Chelsea or for the player, given the intense competition for places that already exists. Chelsea have already brought in winger Andre Schurrle (who also like Willian is best off the left flank) as well as recalling Kevin De Bruyne from loan. Both of these young players will see their progress halted if Willian is signed, whilst it looks unlikely that the club see Willian as a replacement for Juan Mata.