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Willian’s form shows he can provide the support Eden Hazard needs at Chelsea

Willian’s form for Chelsea of late suggests he could play a key role in the Blues’ season run-in, writes Jack Jackman.

Jake Jackman

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Willian
Photo: Reuters

The performances from Willian over the past week have been excellent and Chelsea will be hoping that he can maintain that level for the season run-in.

The Blues have been too reliant on Eden Hazard this season and, quite often, if the Belgian international doesn’t perform, the team don’t win.

They have been labelled a one-man team by some on social media and that hasn’t been an unfair accusation. However, there has been an improvement during the last three matches and their Brazilian international has been a major reason for that.

The upturn in form started with a win over West Brom in the Premier League. It wasn’t an excellent performance by any means, but it was notable as it put an end to their winless run and injected confidence into the squad.

The victory also served to provide Antonio Conte with a new enthusiasm that had been lacking when Chelsea had been beaten convincingly by Bournemouth and Watford in back-to-back fixtures.

Although it gave the squad a platform to build on, there remained worries about their motivation and ability to compete with the rest of the top-six.

Hull City offered a tricky test in the FA Cup just days before the return of the Champions League, but Chelsea delivered a professional performance filled with class.

They were 4-0 up by half-time and Willian was the star performer. He scored two goals as he exploded back into form. It could have been a hat-trick for him on another day as he hit the woodwork in the closing moments.

It was an all-action display from the 29-year-old and he looked to have motivation that he had been lacking earlier in the season. Every time, the ball arrived at his feet, he would be positive in his choices.

During the match, he completed six dribbles, attempted four shots and made four key passes. He couldn’t have been more influential and his efforts earned him an opportunity against Barcelona.

Willian didn’t let his manager down during the contest with the La Liga side. It is one thing playing well in the FA Cup against lower league opposition and a completely other thing to show up when it matters most.

During his Chelsea career, the Brazilian international had always been a dangerous player, but he hadn’t proven himself in the biggest matches and that is why managers have been reluctant to make him a regular starter at Stamford Bridge.

That may have changed in the Champions League as he delivered a man-of-the-match display against one of the best teams in Europe.

Few thought that Chelsea could compete with Barcelona, but they showed that they could and earned a credible 1-1 draw in the first-leg. Willian was central to that success and with a bit more luck, they would have won the game.

The Brazilian international hit the woodwork twice and it looked like it wasn’t going to be his day. They were two excellent efforts from range and showed his quality from outside the area.

Willian is capable of scoring from anywhere inside the final third and in recent weeks, it looks like he has been given more encouragement to shoot on sight.

He didn’t lose his confidence and eventually he did find a way past Marc-Andre ter Stegen as he fired his side into a lead.

There wasn’t much to choose between his performances against Hull City and Barcelona, but the latter was more meaningful.

He completed six dribbles, attempted four shots and made four key passes, the exact same numbers as he produced in the FA Cup.

Willian has been accused of lacking consistency in the past, but that can’t be directed at him over this past week.

In addition to his attacking threat, the 29-year-old forward worked hard out of possession and that is important against a team like Barcelona.

The visitors dominated possession with 73% and Chelsea needed every player on the pitch to contribute off-the-ball.

Willian played his part as he won two tackles. Pedro is seen as the more industrious player when compared to his Brazilian team-mate and that may be part of the reason why he is picked to start more often.

However, that may change during the last few months of the season, as Willian has showed that he can combine work rate with attacking threat.

Chelsea’s problems lie in attack and the Brazilian could emerge to provide the support that Eden Hazard desperately needs.

Despite only starting 13 times in the Premier League this season, he has contributed four goals and six assists, with a goal involvement every 123.9 minutes.

Since the 2015/16 season, Willian has struggled to be as important to the team. During that campaign, he won both Chelsea Player of the Year and Player’s Player of the Year. Chelsea didn’t do well that year and finished in a lowly 10th position.

In hindsight, the attacker’s accomplishments were dampened by the team’s underachievement. Now, he has a real opportunity to reach those standards again, but this time in a side challenging for major honours.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Chelsea

Three goalkeepers Leicester should target if Kasper Schmeichel leaves

Chelsea are keen to sign Kasper Schmeichel, which would leave Leicester in need of a replacement.

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Kasper Schmeichel
Photo: Getty Images

Leicester City could be in need of rejuvenation between the stick if Chelsea get their way, as the Blues are eyeing Kasper Schmeichel.

Sky Sports state the Denmark international is a target for new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri amidst continued speculation that Thibaut Courtois is off to Real Madrid – a transfer that now seems increasingly likely to go ahead.

After featuring for his nation at the World Cup, speculation suggesting 31-year-old Schmeichel will seek a new challenge for the 2018/19 season has been growing, with Sky Sports previously reporting the Premier League winner is also a target for Roma.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

If Schmeichel is to leave, then Leicester boss Claude Puel must invest funds on a new goalkeeper in the market and these three options would be tremendous signings.

“Those Champions league nights are special. There is something about the night games, going away to different cities, it makes it unique.”

Schmeichel’s comments in 2017 may hint at a move for European football.

Jack Butland

England international Jack Butland may not have been first-choice for Gareth Southgate during the club’s tremendous run to the World Cup semi-finals but a major transfer could be on the cards before the window shuts.

Stoke City‘s relegation means that Butland will find it difficult to fight for a spot in the national side next season if he remains in the second-tier and Leicester would be the ideal surroundings for the 25-year-old, though a stern fight may emerge for his services.

The Sun reported Chelsea’s interest earlier this month but the Blues pursuit of Schmeichel suggests that their targets have changed, while the Mirror has thrown doubt on Liverpool‘s reported interest as Jurgan Klopp is content with the goalkeeping options he has at Anfield.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

David Ospina

Boasting vast experience at international level, after starring for Colombia in the previous two World Cups, David Ospina also possesses Premier League and European experience – all of which would encourage Leicester to make a move.

Arsenal are ready to approve a departure following their capture of Germany international Bernd Leno and the Mirror states that the Gunners will accept a fee of just £6 million for the 29-year-old due to the fact he has entered the final 12 months of his contract.

Boca Juniors are also in the hunt for Ospina’s services but the player’s agent told El Crack Deportivo that a move to South America would be difficult to materialise and his preference is to remain in European football.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Cho Hyun-Woo

Prior to the World Cup, Cho Hyun-Woo told ESPN that he dreams of playing in England and the performances of the South Korea goalkeeper in Russia have increased the possibility of that becoming a reality.

The 26-year-old starred for his nation in a difficult group alongside Mexico, Sweden and Germany but stunned the latter with a shock victory that saw the defending champions knocked out prematurely, with Hyun-Woo capturing plenty of attention for a number of superb stops.

An advisor of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told Dagbladet that the Reds should secure a move for the Daegu FC player and Leicester should be alerted as a result, as he could prove to be a superb acquisition.

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Chelsea

Three reasons why Kenedy can become Newcastle’s talisman next season

The 22-year-old made an instant impact when he joined on loan last season.

Liam Thomas

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Kenedy
Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United managed to acquire Kenedy’s services for another season, after bringing the silky winger in on loan last January from Chelsea.

During his time at St. James’ Park last season, the Brazilian showed glimpses of the genius that saw Chelsea bring him into their ranks from Brazilian powerhouse Fluminense and he will, in no doubt, be an extremely effective weapon for Rafael Benitez to have at his disposal next season.

But can the 22-year-old take it up a notch and become Newcastle’s star man in the 2018/19 Premier League season?

A brilliant manager to learn from

Kenedy will again have to chance to play under Spanish tactician Rafael Benitez, a manager who’s done and won it all.

Benitez seemed to get the best out of Kenedy last season for the Magpies, and the young Brazilian won’t find many other managers around who are invested in getting the very best out of their young talents.

He had a huge impact playing just half the season for Newcastle

When Kenedy arrived on Tyneside in January, Benitez’ team were struggling, and in a rut of bad form, the Brazilian played his part in turning the clubs fortunes around and helped his new side to a top half finish.

It is a mouthwatering prospect to think for Newcastle fans what Kenedy will achieve with the club given a full season with them, and now he has fully settled into life in the city, he may be able to make an even bigger impact next season.

Young, ambitious and highly rated

At 22 years of age, Kenedy is poised to have the best season of his career so far and his energetic style of play bodes well for Newcastle next season.

You only have to look back as far as April to see the kind of teams interested in taking Kenedy into their ranks for the new season. Sky Sports reported that Bayern Munich and PSG were considering launching bids for the winger; a testament to how highly rated he is.

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Tottenham Hotspur must avoid repeat of Willian situation as Chelsea enter Malcom race

Tottenham are again looking to beat Chelsea to the signing of a Brazilian attacking talent.

Mathew Nash

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Tottenham Hotspur are back in the race for Brazilian winger Malcom. Le10 Sport reported this week that Spurs are now the frontrunners for the player, with Inter Milan falling short in their pursuit. The French source claimed Malcom was now available for just £35.3 million.

The same source has since gone on to report that Tottenham are now looking into the deal. However, that most recent report also commented on the presence of a transfer rival. It is suggested that Chelsea are entering the race.

Which immediately harks back to memories of Tottenham’s failed pursuit for Willian in 2013. Andre Villas-Boas had identified the Anzhi Makhachkala winger as the perfect option for Spurs. As reported by the BBC, a £30 million fee was agreed and a medical had been undertaken. Willian, was set to be a Tottenham player.

(during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on April 1, 2018 in London, England.

However, two days later, Willian had joined Chelsea.

It was a huge blow for Spurs and left them open to ridicule from Chelsea fans.

The parallels are clear. A talented young Brazilian winger wanted by Spurs, but with Chelsea set to swoop in.

The irony on this occasion is that Chelsea may even be targeting Malcom as a replacement for Willian, who is a target for Barcelona and Manchester United.

Tottenham must not be left with their tails between their legs once again.

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