Willian scored the only goal for Chelsea in their 1-1 draw at home versus Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League this past Tuesday, but he could have easily had a hat trick, as two more shots hit the post. He was no doubt the best player on the pitch that night, and the fine performance by the Brazilian against one of the world’s top clubs was the latest in a string of strong showings from Willian.

It all begs the question, why didn’t Blues boss Antonio Conte give the forward a bigger chance earlier in the season? Why did it take so long to see Willian is such a prominent role?

antonio conte

The Chelsea manager was asked if Willian’s recent form means that he deserved to be featured more often this season. He gave a very defensive response

“Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?” the Italian answered. “I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past. For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Willian has four goals and one assist over his past four first team appearances with the club, but he’s started just 13 times in league play for the Stamford Bridge outfit. Conte says he has no regrets over how he’s handled Willian, and that he has to look out for the best interests of the team, not just individual(s). He also took credit for inserting Willian into the lineup and seeing him succeed.

“This is not only for one player, but for all my players. This is what a winning mentality is. Not if one player is happy or if he is not happy if he doesn’t play. It doesn’t matter. I have to make the best decision for the team,” Conte continued.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

Willian, Conte and Chelsea visit Manchester United tomorrow.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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