No doubt before last night’s Champions League game both Liverpool and Tottenham supporters would have been cursing their clubs failure to sign Willian, but, following last night’s performance, many may question what all the fuss was about.
The former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder famously flirted with both clubs, even going through a medical with Tottenham, before being enticed to join Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
However, when he finally made his debut for Chelsea last night, it was an oddly subdued display, which contrasted sharply to the instant impacts of Christian Eriksen for Tottenham or Mesut Ozil for Arsenal.
It still seems odd that Chelsea felt the need to sign Willian, as many have questioned from the start how exactly he would fit into a Chelsea side already crammed with creative attacking players.
Juan Mata, the West London club’s player of the season for the past two years, is even struggling to find a role in the first team, with places held, for now, by the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar.
Mata performed a substitute role, coming on as a replacement for Willian in the 67th minute, following a truly mediocre performance from the Brazilian.
His previous showing at Stamford Bridge was captivating, as he scored twice for Shakhtar in a 3-2 defeat last November, a performance which ensured his place as one of Europe’s most exciting young players.
Willian, all night, struggled to get into the game.
He started on the right of a five-man midfield and won a corner with an early cross, but early on swapped places with Hazard to the left flank in an attempt to find some success.
Little came as he found he had hardly a touch on the ball as Oscar commanded the creative role, leading to his opening goal on the stroke of half-time.
Willian began the second half back on the right hand side, and got in another dangerous cross that had to be dealt with by Basel goalkeeper Yann Sommer. Yet Oscar continued to be the better player, hitting the bar with a long range shot and seeing another deflected just wide.
Willian was subbed a few minutes later, walking off to loud cheers, which were most likely the Chelsea fans showing their support for Juan Mata following weeks of speculation over his future.
The changes did not work for Mourinho, whose side were eventually defeated 2-1 when Basel scored twice in a ten minute spell.
Last season, Willian’s performance impressed many Chelsea supporters at Stamford Bridge; it is unlikely that last night it had the same effect.
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