The Legend of John Obi Mikel, Chelsea’s Most Underrated Midfielder

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John Obi Mikel
Arsenal's French striker Olivier Giroud (L) vies with Chelsea's Nigerian midfielder John Mikel Obi during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 23, 2013. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNIS RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Chelsea has been home to some of the best midfielders in the modern era, right from Claude Makelele and Michael Ballack to Frank Lampard and Michael Essien. However, there has been one loyal servant to the Blues who is almost always forgotten – John Obi Mikel.

One Champions League, one Europa League, two Premier League titles and four FA Cups are just a highlight reel from the 12 titles that he won with the Londoners. Still, until today, the 33-year-old is not well received as one of the best defensive midfielders of his time.

The Legend of John Obi Mikel

A Permanent Name in the Chelsea Line-Up

Unusually, Mikel played under 11 different managers during his stint with Chelsea, from Jose Mourinho to Carlo Ancelotti. Despite this constant change in the Blues’ management, the midfielder never found himself out of the first-team role.

This highlights his abilities to adapt to the different tactics and strategies brought in by every new manager.

Also, he was quite a learner. There were countless times when the midfielder was the sole target of pundits when Chelsea had a rough weekend, but he always bounced back and put up a dominating performance in the coming weeks.

A Warrior Who Led From the Back

Mikel was never an extravagant or flashy player; no fancy tricks or stepovers on the pitch. But he had a mastery of his art. Stopping the opposition attack in midfield and helping the ball shift from defence to attack in times of constant pressure from the opposition were some of his best traits.

In his 11 years in the Premier League, he had a tackle success rate of 78%, which is an incredible feat considering his consistency over the course of just over a decade. He had a total of 374 interceptions for Chelsea.

There Will Never Be Another John Obi Mikel

Apart from being humble on-field, Mikel was an exact replica off-field too. No controversies, no scandals and no training ground bust-ups – Mikel almost has no dark spot in his entire career.

Jorginho and N’Golo Kante are probably among the best midfielders in the world right now. Despite this, even they have failed to consistently perform for the Blues. One can only imagine the influence of Mikel in the Chelsea era which saw the club reach its pinnacle of success.

There are a large number of clips of Chelsea goals from the last 15 years on the internet. Goals from Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka and Eden Hazard – all are lauded a lot by the fans. Around 40% of those attacks, though, start after a Mikel interception or him working out the transition from the back.

A leader working from the back; a player who could give everything for his team; a player who scored his first Premier League goal after 185 appearances just because he was busy holding the fortress in the centre of the park. There will never be another John Obi Mikel at Chelsea.

 

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