The astonishing numbers behind Willian's free-kick heroics for Chelsea this season. The best in Europe? Martin Laurence of WhoScored.com talks us through his amazing record...
Chelsea's troubled start to the season has been well-documented, with Tuesday's 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv representing only the third time they have won successive matches this season in all competitions.
While so many of the Blues' star turns from last season have underwhelmed, something of an unsung hero from the 2014/15 campaign has leapt to the forefront of Chelsea's fight against frustration, particularly in the Champions League. Willian earned a WhoScored.com man of the match rating of 8.51 in midweek, taking his score for the season in Europe to 8.22 - enough to rank sixth in the tournament.
The Brazilian's performance included an increasingly familiar sight as he dispatched a pinpoint free-kick over the wall and into the hosts' net. It was Willian's sixth goal of the season for Mourinho's men, and fourth in the Champions League, all of which have been direct free-kicks.
Unsurprisingly Willian's tally of six goals from such situations is the most in Europe this season. In fact, across Europe's top 5 leagues, the Champions League and Europa League combined, Miralem Pjanic (4) is the only other player to have scored more than two. Of the 459 players to attempt a shot at goal from direct free-kicks this season only five have scored more than once.
Willian's figures are nothing short of remarkable. Over the Premier League and Champions League he has attempted 11 direct free-kicks, hitting the target with nine and scoring six. That one of his two efforts that failed to test the keeper struck the woodwork only accentuates just how good he has been over a dead ball (the other struck the wall). He has scored more goals from free-kicks than any teammate has managed in total this season.
When compared to the top free-kick takers in Europe the aforementioned Pjanic offers his only real competition this season. Nevertheless, of the players to attempt more than five direct free-kicks Willian's conversion rate of 54.5% is almost twice that of the Bosnian (28.6%), who along with Valencia's Dani Parejo - two goals from seven attempts - is his closest rival.
In terms of accuracy it's a similar story. Willian's figure of 81.8% leads the way, though Monaco's Joao Moutinho - yet to score a free-kick this season - isn't too far behind (71.4%) of the same players to attempt more than five. The player to have attempted the most free-kicks without hitting the target, meanwhile, is Lionel Messi (7).
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That Willian's tally of four direct free-kick goals in a single Champions League season is already a joint-record - shared with compatriot Juninho Pernambucano (4 in the 2005/06 season) - before the group stages have come to a close is the greatest indicator of his incredible feat. Since the 2005/06 season the former Lyon man scored eight goals from direct free-kicks in the Champions League, which is one behind the leader Cristiano Ronaldo. Willian's tally of four from just five appearances this season is already enough to rank third in that time (stats per Opta).
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find live in-game data as well as player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with their free app.