Jon Obi Mikel: A Key Member Of Chelsea's Midfield

Jon Obi Mikel: A Key Member Of Chelsea’s Midfield

Jon Obi Mikel is a name that evokes mixed reactions among Chelsea fans. Most fans are able to appreciate the hard work he puts in at the heart of Chelsea’s midfield, while there are a few who aren’t able to see past the fact that he provides nothing going forward. The fact is that Mikel’s job is to provide a shield for the back four, so expecting him to be an asset in attack is silly. Then again, it’s an easy mistake to make if you’re a fan. However, when a fully-qualified journalist claims that Mikel is a liability to Chelsea you begin to wonder, “How exactly is he still employed?”

That’s exactly how I felt today when I came across an article titled “Why Don’t Chelsea Buy Someone Better Than Jon Obi Mikel”. The article starts with an expression of surprise as to why Chelsea are offering Mikel a new 5-year deal and further goes on to claim that Mikel is a “liability” in an otherwise strong Chelsea line-up. The writer then compares Jon Obi Mikel’s passing and goal-scoring stats with that of City’s Yaya Toure, blissfully ignorant of the fact that both players perform a different job for their respective teams. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“John Obi Mikel, their Nigerian midfield enforcer, is preventing a world class defensive midfielder from making the Blues an even better prospect. He’s the weak link in a team otherwise brimming with players of real quality….. there are half a dozen central midfielders with more successful passes in England and seven who have enjoyed more touches of the ball. One of those is Yaya Toure, who outshone Mikel in the Community Shield and has continued to embarrass him with some bullish displays for Man City this year. Mikel should be sitting up and taking note, but he’s too busy hiding in Chelsea’s midfield.” (Source: talkSPORT)

Honestly, reading this article made me laugh.

Jon Obi Mikel’s role in Chelsea is one of the most under-appreciated and difficult ones in modern football. He never quite gets the credit he deserves when Chelsea win, yet he is almost always blamed for slowing down Chelsea’s midfield and not helping the team going forward. Anyone with half a brain will tell you that Mikel never contributes to Chelsea’s attacks simply because it’s not his job. His job is to provide a shield for the defence and make key interceptions and tackles that break up the oppositions play, not provide a killer 40-yard pass that leads to a goal. While one cannot doubt the fact that he is still not a complete player, it is absurd to claim that he’s a liability to Chelsea.

Secondly, comparing Mikel to Yaya Toure makes no sense. Yaya is a beast of a player no doubt, and is almost always one of City’s main men in midfield. But the reason he always finds himself in advanced positions in the final third is because that’s his job. Toure’s not expected to sit back and defend. He’s expected to run forward and be involved in City’s build-up play. If you must compare Yaya to anyone in the current Chelsea midfield, compare him to Ramires. Both are box-to-box midfielders who perform the exact same role for their teams. It’s absurd to compare a defensive midfielder to a box-to-box midfielder.

Lastly, this dismissive attitude towards Mikel reeks of a lack of understanding of modern football. In today’s world it is unimaginable for a team to line-up without a proper defensive midfielder.  Even world-class teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona always have an enforcer present in the starting XI. Trust me when I say that defensive midfielders aren’t on the field to make up the numbers. Modern football is attacking and technical. So attacking and technical, in fact, that you cannot simply rely on your defence to keep the opposition at bay. Hence, the presence of a defensive midfielder cannot and should not be underestimated.

Mikel may not be the fanciest player around. He’s not even the most prolific of midfield players in front of goal (bit of an understatement). But he has a job in the Chelsea midfield and he does it well, therefore justifying the new contract that is being offered to him. Enough said.

Shayne Dias 

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