Chelsea FC is having a difficult time at the moment on and off the field. The players are not performing to the level of which is expected of them. The focus of the blame is Interim Manager Rafael Benitez but I believe the problem is a lot deeper than that. I am not in any way defending Rafa because the man in charge has a squad that should be beating the likes of Reading, QPR and Newcastle rather comfortably.
During the managerial reign of Jose Mourinho John Obi Mikel was brought in to Chelsea FC in rather controversial fashion. The player’s transfer was surrounded by scandal and accusations. Jose however quickly realized the talent level of Mikel and started using him as a holding midfielder regularly. The player was quite immature at first being fined by the club on more than one occasion for his work ethic (appearing late for training sessions). The young lad eventually got his act together and the performances on the field began to reflect the new and improved Mikel. He was a key player for Mourinho and was a vital part of our success during those years.
Guus Hiddink during his short spell at Chelsea also viewed Mikel as basically an “untouchable player” in the starting 11. Chelsea was a bully on the field and at 6 foot 2 Mikel was a key element. Chelsea and Mikel were very successful during the Carlo Ancelotti era at Stamford Bridge as well. When AVB (not saying his full name) was in charge of the club Mikel was clearly not fancied by the young manager and I truly believe the results reflected that. When Robbie took over Mikel was immediately inserted back in to the lineup on a regular basis and the results speak for themselves.
What am I getting at? The current Chelsea team is incredibly talented and technically gifted but we do lack a “horse” in midfield. People that don’t really understand much about football can question what the man really does on the field because he never produces offensively. What Mikel does is the “dirty work” and he does it to perfection. His job is to outmuscle the opposition, retrieve the ball and pass it to a playmaker. Our midfield at the moment is being outmuscled almost every match. The defensive errors would also be reduced if Mikel was available for selection.
He also brings a certain aggression to the way he plays the game, sometimes it may get him in the Referees book but that is simply something you have to accept and live with. I have heard so called football “experts” claim “Mikel doesn’t do much of anything on the field”. To those experts I ask this question? Would we have survived that epic semi final encounter with Barcelona last season in the Champions league without the tireless work rate of Mikel? How would we have faired in Munich without him? The answer is it is highly unlikely we would have won either of those matches given the circumstances and environment they were played in. During this current season Chelsea with John Obi Mikel in the lineup and without is two completely different sides. Ramires is a quality box to box midfielder and Lampard can play the holding role in emergencies but they are not experts of destruction. I can’t wait for the return of John Obi Mikel from the African Cup of Nations. We are currently being exposed in matches that are especially physically demanding, I assure you this will change when the big Nigerian returns to the side.
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Written by Pawel Olender (269)