As it was announced on Chelsea’s social media page that Willian would be making his landmark 300th appearance for the club away at Lille last night, instead of messages of appreciation for the achievement, it was belittled by Chelsea fans online.
‘300 too many’ was the general feeling amongst those fans online but they were forced to eat their words hours later as their unloved Brazilian scored a vital winner to secure all three points in France, with a brilliant volley.
That was Willian’s tenth goal in the Champions League since his arrival in 2013, in fact, no Chelsea player has scored more goals in Europe’s premier competition in that same time period than the Brazilian - the revered and adored Eden Hazard only got eight before his departure this summer.
Having scored against Brighton in the Premier League this weekend that makes it two goals in two games for the winger not known for his goalscoring prowess. Having said that he has now racked up 54 goals and 53 assists in his time at Stamford Bridge, a record not to be sniffed at.
Scapegoats are not a new thing in football but the rise of social media has made them more and more common, no matter how good their performances on the pitch are. Ashley Young, despite a decent career at the top level, is seen as a joke figure online by United fans, Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka is ridiculed by Gunners and Willian is now the target of Chelsea’s abuse.
The issue with social media, in particular, is that modern players are now placed at either end of the topsy-turvy footballing spectrum. They are seen as either one of the best players in the world, or absolute garbage when the reality is that most players fit somewhere in the middle.
Willian is by no means a world-beater but he is and has proved in the past that he is a very good Premier League footballer. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, football fans online often do not represent those in the stands and Willian has been a key figure for Chelsea over several different managers over the past six years.
Current boss Frank Lampard was the latest gaffer to heap praise on his wide man:
He’s a top player. I want to see him happy. I want to see a smile on his face because his work ethic has been brilliant.
He can take people out of the game with his speed and trickery and he can score goals for us.
It is perhaps a testament to his professionalism and quality that even at the age of 31 he has been linked to a move to one of Europe’s elite clubs Barcelona, but seems set to sign a new deal at his current club.
In an era where patience and loyalty are both rarities, Willian deserves more respect from the Chelsea faithful.