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Willian will seek to retake his place in Chelsea's XI in pivotal campaign

Willian will seek to retake his place in Chelsea's XI in pivotal campaign
From ESPN - July 17, 2017

For footballers, the new season always signifies a fresh start. Whether the previous campaign has been a success or failure, the possibility for improved results and performances is a seductive force in banishing most lingering doubts.

For Willian, the 2017-18 season will be undoubtedly be a pivotal one.

Having been named as Chelsea's player of the year during their last title defence two seasons ago, the Brazilian will have expected to have been one of the first names on the team sheet last term. The arrival of Antonio Conte and his preference for a radically improved Pedro Rodriguez meant that he ended up spending most games watching from the bench. The first half of his season was also greatly impacted by the death of his mother after a long-term illness. Form understandably took a dip and it was his added misfortune that saw him return from compassionate leave with his place in the team having been exceptionally well filled by Pedro.

This forthcoming campaign will see Willian able to start afresh unburdened by such testing off-field issues. It will allow him to hit the ground running through preseason and hopefully see him play with the dynamism that has so often lit up Stamford Bridge.

In fairness, he contributed greatly towards last season's title success and the run to the FA Cup final. Willian's brace in the semifinal against Tottenham, his counter-attacking strike at Manchester City and his goal-scoring cameo in the defining 3-0 win at Everton are just three examples of him making the difference.

In total he scored eight league goals, a fair return for somebody who made the majority of his 34 appearances as a substitute. That he was used largely as a replacement further highlights his professionalism in overcoming personal disappointment at no longer being a regular in the starting eleven yet still performing to the highest level.

Even more commendable is his desire to stay at Chelsea and fight for a first-team place. That he is willing to strive for further success at the club that he has called home for the past four years is particularly pleasing given reported interest from Manchester United with Willian having previously flourished under their manager Jose Mourinho during their time together in west London. At almost 29 it would be understandable if he felt like taking on one last challenge in what would probably be his last major contract. A move to the riches on offer on the Chinese Super League has also been mooted, though Willian has insisted that he is only interested in playing for Chelsea.

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