Where would Willian fit in at Barcelona?
Daniel Anwar | 23 July 2018
La Liga champions chasing Chelsea winger
There’s been plenty of talk of one of Chelsea’s stars leaving for a La Liga giant over the last few days.
But while there have been rumours and links surrounding Eden Hazard’s possible move to Real Madrid, Barcelona are really going in for Willian. He’s now 1/2 to make the switch.
The Spanish champions have reportedly put in an improved £64m bid after seeing their initial offer turned down.
But Ernesto Valverde can already call upon Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho in the final third. As good as he is, why are they so keen to bring in Willian?
The Coral News Team have examined how he could fit in at Camp Nou…
Messi’s the main man
Barcelona traditionally play in a 4-3-3 system, but Valverde set his side up in a narrow 4-4-2 for much of last season, especially before Coutinho arrived in January.
It’s success depended on Suarez occupying defenders, opening space for Messi to exploit.
But there have been signs the Uruguayan may be starting to fade. He scored just once in 10 Champions League appearances last season, while he was relatively poor in open play during the World Cup too.
Bringing in Willian would allow Valverde to revert to a 4-3-3, with Messi in a false nine role. Willian and Dembele could stretch the play on opposite flanks and force defences back, while also providing the necessary support for Messi.
Change the approach
But seeing as Suarez is one of Barcelona’s biggest stars and top earners, he’s unlikely to lose his starting place yet.
Valverde could stick with the 4-4-2, and deploy Willian wide on the right. The Brazilian has plenty of skill, but he’s also prepared to put a shift in, as anyone who’s played under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte has to be.
Barcelona haven’t progressed beyond the Champions League quarter-finals in the last three seasons. That’s quite a drop off for a side that had reached the semi-finals in six of the previous seven campaigns.
They’re 6/1 to win it this term. Willian’s diligence could leave them less exposed in the big games.
Alternatively, he and Dembele could be competing for the same spot. Andres Iniesta’s departure means Coutinho is likely to be deployed in midfield this season.
Valverde could play with the club’s favoured 4-3-3 set-up, with Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic and Coutinho as the midfield trio.
Suarez would lead the line, with Messi wide on the right, leaving one spot up for grabs on the left.
It’s only a year since the club invested hugely in Dembele. Now he’s free from injury, he deserves a chance to see if he can make that left-wing spot his own. He’s one of the most exciting young players in Europe and just helped France to win the World Cup.
The club could still do with an alternative to Dembele in this system, but Barca fans would probably rather it was a talented prospect from La Masia instead of a big-money signing who’s closing in on 30-years-old.
There are ways Willian could genuinely help the club to progress, but this probably isn’t one of them.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing