Willian's post-restart form deserves new Chelsea contract

Willian's post-restart form deserves new Chelsea contract

It has been a mixed period for Chelsea since the restart, but they are on course to finish in the top four, with a four point advantage over Manchester United in 5th. Willian has been one of their standout players during this period, with four goals and three assists. The Brazilian’s contract runs out at the end of the season, which has created speculation on his future. Frank Lampard is hoping that an agreement can be found, per Sky Sports, but the transfer activity at Stamford Bridge could put the player off a long term stay.

Hakim Ziyech was in the stands against Norwich City. Although the new signing is unable to feature until the 2020/21 season, his arrival will cast doubt over Willian’s first team place if he was to stay. The former Ajax player can play centrally, but he will be expected to start on the right for the Blues. Timo Werner is also set to join, while there is interest in a move for Kai Havertz. With Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham already at the club, this will create a lot of competition for attacking starts.

At the age of 31, Willian will believe that he should be playing regularly at a high level for the next two or three years at least. This season, he has nine goals and seven assists, which ranks as his best ever season in the Premier League. Over the final two matches, he will be hoping to improve on that record even further. Following such an impressive return, it would seem a strange time to move the Brazilian out of the starting eleven. That said, Ziyech wouldn’t have been signed to sit on the bench.

His underlying numbers are very impressive and show that his current form is sustainable. According to Understat, Willian is averaging 0.27 expected goals (xG) and 0.31 expected assists (xA) per ninety minutes. Across the season, he has 7.77 xG and 8.68 xA, therefore he is slightly overperforming the former but underperforming the latter. It is obvious that the 31-year-old is a complete player in the final third, offering a goal threat and creativity to the current Chelsea team.

Willian has been one of the most creative players in the league this season and he has been vital to Chelsea in this respect. According to Statsbomb data (taken from FB Ref), he is averaging 4.88 shot creating actions per ninety minutes. This ranks him as the 7th highest in this metric in the Premier League. Further to this, he averages 0.44 goal creating actions per ninety minutes, second only to Mason Mount (0.5) in the Chelsea squad.

During his time at Stamford Bridge, Willian has been much maligned on social media for his performances, but he has been a consistent performer. The above numbers show this and how he ranks compared to others in the Premier League. Even at the age of 31, he should be plying his trade in the top-six in the league and there is reason to believe he will maintain this for a few years yet. His game doesn’t rely on pace, rather his positional sense, reading of the game and striking ability allows him to perform to a high standard.

There will be interest from across the world if he does choose to leave Chelsea. His status as a free agent will make him very attractive and rival Premier League clubs could make a move. Jose Mourinho is known to a big fan, while Arsenal have been linked.

Based on his goal contributions and underlying numbers this season, Chelsea should offer a short term extension to Willian. Although it will be hoped that Ziyech can replicate his Eredivisie form and secure a starting place, the club would benefit from having the Brazilian to compete with him. If they can’t match his demands, he would be a very good signing for one of their rivals. His age will complicate talks, but he has another few years at a high level yet.