Nigeria’s own ‘John Obi Mikel’ Will Be Crucial To Chelsea’s Busy and tight Christmas Schedule
He has adapted well to a role as a reliable squad player that can be called up when players need to be rested or the situation requires extra defensive steel.
A defensive midfielder that was signed as an attacker, Mikel started his life in English football in controversial fashion and he continues to elicit strong opinions amongst Chelsea fans.
Some love him but others feel eternally frustrated with his ability to dither and give the ball away and inability to move the ball forwards.
However, to many he is a hero of Munich who has given eight years of service to the Blues, not complaining despite seeing his role in recent years reduced to bit part player. Despite featuring in the defeat at Newcastle in general his performances have been top draw. This form and the fixture congestion has contributed to his best run in the Chelsea team for two years.
Every summer for the last few seasons, there have been rumors that Mikel would be on his way to pastures new, but each deadline passes and Mikel is still in the managers mind, even if in recent years he has had a reduced role.
Despite barely featuring at the start of the season as the fixtures have mounted, Jose Mourinho has turned to Mikel to share the burden. After failing to feature at all in November Mikel has made six appearances and five starts.
We have even seen the rarest of all footballing moments this December, a Mikel goal that came against Sporting Lisbon. This was just his fifth in over 300 appearances giving the Nigerian a healthy average of one goal every 66 Chelsea appearances.
With tricky away games against Tottenham and Southampton coming up and a hectic schedule we are likely to see more of Mikel before the year is out. This could either be as a partner to Matic (as at Stoke) or as cover should the Serbian international need a rest.
Mikel may not be every fans cup of tea, but he is playing an important role in the quest for silverware at Stamford Bridge and should be respected for getting his head down and getting on with it despite not getting regular game time.