Mourinho's Midas Touch with Substitutions Shows Willian's Likely Chelsea Role
Late goals from Eden Hazard and Willian Borges da Silva may have sealed a result that, on paper, appears comfortable for the Blues, but the reality is something altogether different after the Canaries caused them more than the odd scare at Carrow Road.
Indeed, for all their first-half dominance, Jose Mourinho's side allowed Norwich back into the game, with Anthony Pilkington cancelling out Oscar's opener after the interval as the home team threatened to take at least a point.
The Republic of Ireland international's header came on 68 minutes—a time when Chelsea should have been closing the game out. Instead, they needed to call upon the nous of their manager who used the power of his substitutes bench to eventually see off Chelsea's plucky opponents.
It would have been frustrating no doubt for Mourinho to see his team come close to throwing away victory, but he will be equally happy with the impact Hazard and Willian had from the bench.
It was a bold move from the Portuguese to ditch his back four in pursuit of victory with 15 minutes remaining, bringing on Hazard for the injured Ashley Cole when a perhaps more suitable deputy in Cesar Azpilicueta was available.
But it was an impressive move nonetheless and one that worked.
The introduction of Hazard reasserted the balance of play in Chelsea's favor, pushing Norwich onto the back foot, while swapping Willian for Juan Mata six minutes later made an even greater impact.
Firstly, the Brazilian played a key role in putting Chelsea back in front, keeping the ball alive after the Blues' defence had cleared a Norwich corner. Flicking onto his compatriot Oscar, it opened play and the move resulted in Hazard drilling his shot home under John Ruddy to make it 2-1.
Just 60 seconds later, Chelsea were out of sight, but this time it was Willian on the score sheet with a beautiful curling effort from the edge of the 18-yard box that left the goalkeeper with little chance.
Willian had been on the pitch all of five minutes, but it was all it took for him to help ensure Chelsea's place in the top four of the Premier League was secure for the next fortnight or so.
Since joining the Blues from Anzhi Makhachkala, the Brazilian has looked anything but a £30 million player—the fee in which Chelsea are reported to have paid the Russians for his services.
More performances like this, however, and it will not be long before he's paid that fee back.
It's a hefty sum and one that, at most clubs, comes with a starting place all but guaranteed. This is Chelsea, though, where £30 million players are not exactly being rationed.
How should Jose Mourinho be using Willian at Chelsea right now?
Getting to grips with the English game is clearly going to take him time, but with tired defences and midfielders equally fatigued in the latter stages of matches, Willian has shown how devastating he can be as an impact substitute.
He was worth three points to Chelsea on Sunday. As the season progresses, how many more will he help Mourinho's men win from the bench? How important will that Norwich victory be?
"I'm happy for Willian," said Mourinho after the game (as reported by BBC Sport). "He was injured in the week and the kid made himself available to try to help, and when he came on he gave us a push."
It was more than that and judging by his reaction, Mourinho knows that. If that is the case, expect Willian to join the likes of Tore Andre Flo in the ranks of Chelsea's high-profile super subs.
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