Jose Mourinho expressed his delight after John Obi Mikel helped secure Chelsea’s place in the fourth round of the FA Cup by scoring a rare goal against Derby County at Pride Park on Sunday.
The Nigerian midfielder is not known for his goal-scoring prowess but rose highest to Willian’s delivery and nodded the ball home in the 66′ minute of a match that had been goalless until then before Oscar wrapped things up with a curling effort just five minutes later.
It was already a special day for Mikel as he was not only making his 300th appearance for the club but was wearing the captain’s armband in place of Michael Essien who was substituted for Eden Hazard during the second half.
Mourinho praised Mikel after the win:
“I recognise his ability to play as an anchorman, to play that position in a very comfortable way, with no mistakes.
“He reads the game well, plays in an intelligent and safe way, but I never recognise his goal-scoring appetite.
“There was a smile on my face [when he scored]. For some reason Michael Essien gave him the armband, normally it should go to Ashley Cole, so maybe it made him believe he was a goal-scorer!
“It was important for us, we were dominating and dominating, creating and creating but the goal was not arriving. It was like the winning goal.”
Mikel is and will probably always be a divisive player at Chelsea but I don’t get those that don’t get what he does – especially as he has played an average of 37 or more games in his eight seasons at Stamford Bridge under renowned coaches like Mourinho, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti.
His job is not a glamorous one but Mikel is undoubtedly one of the most effective in this role in the league. It’s rare that he would ever miss a pass – 63.7% of which are forwards in the league this season – he also recycles possession and represents a composed figure on the ball, so it’s a shame he is under-appreciated.
The Nigerian international is obviously not perfect as he can be guilty of slowing the play down at times, although sometimes he will be asked to do just that, and if it was permitted then it would be nice to see him do more when joining the attack but these aren’t essential assets for a holding midfielder which is why Mourinho only cares about what Mikel is asked to do, just as Hiddink and Ancelotti did.