The defensive midfield position isn’t the most glamorous role in the line-up and many fans seem to misunderstand it, but it’s a vitally important part of the team’s make up and John Obi Mikel must be the most underrated player in the position in the Premier League.
Perhaps it’s because he arrived at the club in controversial circumstances as an 18-year-old which say him sign for us instead of Manchester United, but the media have never taken to the man and he rarely get any credit for the work he does. He’s also under appreciated by many amongst the Chelsea support, those that argue he only passes backwards/sideways and is a liability in the middle of the park.
The 25-year-old isn’t perfect but he’s a very good player and I’ve listed below a few stats that go some way to prove how instrumental he is:
Tackling: Mikel has made 26 tackles for Chelsea this season and is only bettered by Ramires (29) and Ashley Cole (36).
Interceptions: Mikel is joint-1st at the club with Cole and Eden Hazard, who all have 17 interceptions each.
Accurate passes: Mikel (560), Hazard (430) and Juan Mata (428).
Long-ranged passing: Mikel has completed 31 long-ranged passes this season (3rd best). David Luiz and Petr Cech are joint-first on 45.
Accurate forward passing: Hazard (334), Mata (305) and Mikel (280)
Pass success %: 89.8
Duels Won: Fernando Torres (64), Mikel (56) and Ramires (56) make up the top three in this department.
He does however commit a lot of fouls with 22 in total (the most in the team) but it is sometimes a necessary evil in the position he plays, which is the busiest area of the field, so it’s no surprise his midfield partner Ramires is 2nd with 15 fouls.
Another criticism that is often levelled at him is that he doesn’t score any goals and although it would be nice if he did, it’s not really his job, is it? I don’t remember anyone slagging Claude Makelele off because he only scored two during his time at Stamford Bridge (the same as Mikel’s current total) and although they’re a different type of defensive midfielder, it’s essentially the same role.
Speaking of Makelele, he wasn’t appreciated when he was at Real Madrid and club president Florentino Perez infamously said this about him when he left for Chelsea:
“We will not miss Makélelé. His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.”
Although Mikel has some way to go before he has a position named after him, he’s come a long way since he arrived at the club as a teenager that believed his own hype, had a poor on-pitch temperament and a questionable attitude. Now, at only 25-years-old, he’s mastered a role that was originally unfamiliar to him and has won one Community Shield, one League Cup, four FA Cups, a Premier League title and the UEFA Champions League.