WILLIAN: SETTLING WELL
A full week to prepare for a match, as has been the case ahead of today's visit to Hull, is rare in Willian's Chelsea experience so far, but while he is clear he is still finding his feet in English football, the busy Christmas and new year period was a positive one for the Brazilian.
Not only were the team results good, Willian's individual performances caught the eye too and he was one Jose Mourinho's most utilised players, starting against Arsenal, Liverpool and Derby, and coming on in the games versus Swansea and Southampton, the latter with a notable impact.
While a season laden with matches is nothing new to someone brought up on Brazilian domestic football prior to his time in Ukraine and Russia, the 25-year-old confirms such an intensity of action, especially at this time of year, is different.
'I was used to December being holidays in Brazil and this is the first time I have played so many matches together,' Willian tells the official Chelsea website. 'It was a different feeling but a good one.'
What has also become clear over the period is that Mourinho is prepared to play the summer signing not only in the wide positions Chelsea fans saw him operate in with success when we faced Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, but also in a more central no.10 position where, although there has been switching with the wider players, his direct running in the middle has made an impact.
'It is true that most of the time at Shakhtar I played out on the wings but I also played no.10 from time to time there,' he points out.
'It is similar here, sometimes I am out on the right, sometimes out on the left but also playing the no.10 position, but I am still settling into the team with the positions I am being required to play.
'The no.10 player needs to have the quality to find space and make the right runs in the right positions. You have less space and there are more people around you when you play there but the knowledge I have from playing wide does help in that particular instance.
'I am still settling into this particular position,' he emphasises, 'but I don't see any problems with how I am playing at the moment.'
Indeed it was the introduction of Willian and compatriot Oscar during the New Year's Day game at Southampton that played a big part in landing the killer blow on the Saints. He scored the second goal in a 3-0 win with a sweet strike, as had been his previous goal netted away at Norwich.
'Over my career you will see that I have got more assists than goals but here I have scored two and I am really hoping to add to the total soon,' he says.
'I always want to increase the amount of goals I am scoring, however sometimes games unfold in ways that I can't join the scoresheet, or indeed that I find my colleagues are in a better position than I am.'
Last weekend's game at Derby was the first time all four of our current Brazilians started a Chelsea match together, a milestone not lost on Willian, and again a significant contribution was made with him delivering the fine free-kick from which John Mikel Obi headed the team ahead, and then Oscar scoring the eighth goal in his fine season so far.
'Personally I feel happy just to have them alongside me,' says Willian. 'I really hope we all continue to be in the team and this carries on.
'Oscar is a great player and it is true right now he is in a good run of form, providing and scoring goals for the team. I am very happy for him because he is really a great person and he deserves all the happiness he gets.'
- January's Score Predictor prize is a shirt signed by the team.