When will John Obi Mikel get the credit he deserves?

February 8, 2010

John Obi Mikel always starts against Arsenal – despite not always being a fixture in the first team, he has started home and away against Arsene Wenger’s side both this season and last.

He’s a tremendous physical presence in front of the back four, he reads the game well, he keeps possession and passes calmly, he’s dominant in the air (vital for a holding midfield player) and he’s really improved his discipline over the past eighteen months or so.

His reputation doesn’t seem to have recovered from his initial problems in England, but he does a tremendous job whenever he plays in a big game for Chelsea. Michael Essien might be a far better all-round footballer, but he is wasted in the holding role, because it restricts his attacking qualities.

Mikel, however, is perfect for that deeper role. Here’s a breakdown of his performance yesterday.

Firstly, his passing and interceptions:

by Guardian Chalkboards

Secondly, his tackling and free-kick winning:

by Guardian Chalkboards

Pretty impressive statistics for a holding midfielder against a side blessed with great passing ability.

He may not be the most popular of players, but he does a crucial job for Chelsea in an area of the pitch where their big names have been underwhelming this season.

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