Jose Mourinho’s team selection for Chelsea’s opening Premier League match against Burnley contained a few talking points but one that was not really mentioned was his decision to start with Andre Schurrle over Willian.
Many debated on his decision to choose Thibaut Courtois over Petr Cech and his call to leave new signing Filipe Luis on the bench was also discussed but the decision to leave out Willian was not.
It’s not even as though people could excuse the decision by saying that Willian was playing at the World Cup. Schurrle was the last Chelsea player to return from the tournament but such has been his attitude since arriving back for pre-season that he has worked his way straight into the first team.
The German justified his manager’s selection when he scored the club’s second goal in the 3-1 win, timing his run perfectly to get on the end of a brilliant pass from Cesc Fabregas.
Given his performance, and that of Eden Hazard it would appear that if Willian wants to work his way back into the first team he will be in direct competition with compatriot Oscar. Last season the former undoubtedly enjoyed the better season as, despite his excellent early form, Oscar started to fade away.
Willian was an interesting signing by Chelsea last summer, many thought that he was solely being signed to frustrate London rivals Tottenham Hotspur but it turned out that Mourinho knew exactly what he was doing. Willian was both technically brilliant and defensively a consistent worker, he was in same ways the perfect Mourinho player.
For whatever reason Mourinho went with Schurrle for the first match and now the German has earned himself a start against Leicester. That means that it is a straight choice between Oscar and Willian, both Brazilian dribblers boasting exceptional work rates. Last season Willian edged the chances created 16 more chances that his counterpart, but Oscar scored twice as many goals, eight compared to four, and against a so-called lesser team like Leicester he may deem it necessary to include Oscar.
However he will also be aware that Leicester’s wings are a position of real strength and it may come down to who is a better defensive players as to which one he starts.
Last season Oscar made marginally more tackles per 90 minutes but he made over twice as many clearances. However Willian made over three times as many interceptions which demonstrates that both possess different skills. Willian may read the game better but Oscar is normally in a better position to snuff out danger.
Against Burnley Oscar was fairly anonymous, being overshadowed by Hazard, Schurrle and Cesc Fabregas but he still performed an important defensive role.
That performance alone suggests that he warrants at least one opportunity to show offensively what he is capable of. It seems harsh on Willian who was one of Chelsea’s players of the season last year but he is paying the price for not sufficiently impressing Mourinho. He needs to focus now on making sure that he does impress when he doest get his chance on the pitch.