Not long ago, it was looking a near certainty that Willian’s time at Chelsea was coming to an end.
After seven years at the club, it appeared as though the pair were unable to agree a new contract, with his current deal having expired on 30 June (although he has signed a short-term extension to keep him in west London until the completion of the current campaign).
Indeed, his comments in February weren’t so much as a hint, but rather a very open remark about his future. The 31-year-old admitted that Chelsea had offered him a two-year deal, but he was searching for a three-year contract. Furthermore, he added that the Blues ‘are not going’ to change their offer and, as a result, he ‘really doesn’t know if it will be possible’ for him to stay at the club.
But while he is nearing the end of his contract and despite the numerous links to other clubs, Willian has been a key player for the Blues since the resumption of play, starting all four games since action got back underway.
During the enforced break, critics of the Brazilian were alluding to the fact that after the close of the January transfer window, boss Frank Lampard had opted to start Willian in just two of his side’s five league games before play was halted.
Since the restart, it has been Christian Pulisic who has been receiving all the praise – and rightly so – for his impressive displays in attack. As a result, Willian’s performances have gone somewhat under the radar – despite his goal contributions – and they have perhaps not been appreciated by some as much as they should.
Willian has grabbed three goals and one assist in his four games since the restart, and his form is said to have left Lampard very impressed, so much so that the Blues have now reached out to the winger once more in an attempt to finally reach an agreement with him regarding a new deal.
While Willian has his faults and while he may be reaching the latter stages of his career, the fact remains that he continues to be an integral member of this Chelsea squad. Yes, it is his performances since the restart that have convinced the west Londoners to re-open talks, but the truth is, he has proven his value to the side throughout the season.
The Brazilian’s double against West Ham last time out saw him take his tally to ten in all competitions for the season, making him the club’s second top goalscorer – behind only Tammy Abraham. In terms of assists, Willian’s tally of seven so far makes him the club’s top provider.
In a team filled with talented youngsters, especially in attack, Willian’s consistency and solid numbers alleviates the pressure off those around him.
But while his goal contribution figures speak for themselves, it is his numbers in terms of chances created that truly underline his continued importance to this Chelsea team. Within the Blues squad, no player has created more big chances in the Premier League than the winger in 2019/20, while overall, he sits ninth in this category.
In fact, he has created more big chances than Adama Traore, Raheem Sterling and Roberto Firmino to name just a few.
Defensively, the numbers speak for themselves as well, with his total of 39 tackles made in the league in 2019/20 seeing him rank just fifth in the whole Chelsea squad in this department. As an offensive player, he is often judged on his output in front of goal, but his tenacity and work rate out of possession shouldn’t be ignored.
Chelsea are heading in the right direction, there’s no doubting that. And youth is leading the way, but Willian has been a consistently impressive performer throughout the season. Yes, Willian’s form has fluctuated at points, and yes he has his flaws, but the Blues should be reconsidering their contract stance in an attempt to convince him to stay at Stamford Bridge.
It is his bright and emphatic displays since the restart which have seemingly convinced Chelsea to re-open talks, but in reality he has shown over the course of the current campaign that he can still be a major asset for Lampard moving forward.
Should he pen a new deal, the arrivals of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner will mean his game time would be limited. But it would be wrong of Blues fans to expect either player to immediately hit the ground running in a new league, while there is, of course, the possibility of all three players featuring in the same team.
With Willian capable of operating in a number of different positions, he would add depth to Lampard’s squad as he looks to build a team that is capable of challenging for trophies.
In a season when Chelsea have struggled to fill the void left by Eden Hazard, Willian has stepped up and has did his bit, registering some very respectable figures. The winger isn’t the man the Blues should be relying on moving forward, but it would be wrong of the club to not reconsider their contract stance, especially considering his form since the resumption of play.