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For the many who are conversant with the Premier League, you might have heard or seen him before.
But as for us Chelsea fans, we know him as a Pastor who knows his Bible simply because he was the part of the contingent that won us the UEFA Champions League last season. He didn’t play a minor role, but a vital one in the matches against the two giants – Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Mikel Obi came to Chelsea amid controversies. After being voted the second best player after Messi in the Under-20 World Cup in 2005, Manchester United, who has little history of signing black players was at logger heads with Chelsea, which was then being handled by the “Special One” Jose Mourinho. In order not to waste much time, I won’t delve into the main issue that surrounded the signing of Mikel but after the involvement of FIFA, Chelsea won the right of signing him.
Let us go a little down the memory lane. Mikel played at the Under-20 World Cup hosted by Holland as an attacking midfielder. It was in this position that he shown himself as a rising star. He was naturally an attacking midfielder but Mourinho converted him to a defensive midfielder in order to play the position that Makelele excelled in, after he left the club.
I think as a defensive midfielder, these requirements are much needed: Composure, Teamwork, Stamina, Determination, Tackling, Pass Accuracy, Vision and Technique. But this area of the field requires much more physical ability than the mental, and this resulted in Mikel sacrificing much of his creative techniques for the acquisition of the physical ones.
It is indeed a huge sacrifice to see someone who plays in the same position like Fabregas, Iniesta, Ozil etc thrown to the lower region of the field, playing very close with the defenders.
Okay, let me tell you this, as a defensive midfielder, you have to have much of what the defenders have and blend it with the requirements of the midfield. Furthermore, playing as a defensive midfielder as like combining two roles together, this can be seen from the etymological analysis of that compound word: Defensive-Midfielder.
Mikel has always been a subject of criticism among Chelsea fans for his low goal scoring record ever since he signed for the club six years ago. He once said in an interview that he is happy when he see others scoring, he does not have to be the one to score. Sincerely speaking, we fans always want to praise those players who shook the opposition’s net with goals, forgetting the one who created or started the passes that lead to it.
For every goal, there is a beginning of the pass that leads to it. History has it that Mikel has initiated most of Chelsea goals, most recently the second goal scored by Oscar during the match against Juventus. He initiated the play that lead to it, but pundits will never consider that. What if he had decided to play a directionless shot towards the keeper? Well, he didn’t and instead passed the ball which led to that stunning Oscar goal.
What actually prompted me to writing this article is not to say Mikel is a perfect player who does not make mistakes, he is a man like you and I, so mistakes are bound to happen. But each time this guy makes a mistake, we tend to over emphasise it, forgetting those good things he has done for Chelsea. We all want our club to always win every match no matter what, and we pour avalanche of accolades on those players who scored.
Have we ever considered those tackles that lead to dispossession of ball from the opponents that this guy has made? Record has it that during the match against Juventus, Chelsea made 29 tackles and Mikel made most of them. All these could have lead to goals, but we fans don’t give any such consideration.
Now, let us consider the match against Juventus which saw Chelsea, having been leading in the first half, draw at the end. Mikel was said to have caused the second goal, all the football websites, especially goal.com, cast the blame of the second goal on him. In fact, goal.com rated him as the flop of the match.
When I saw this, I was sad and I began to question the rating yardstick of this website. Mikel was the only defensive midfielder against the midfielders studded Juventus side. Juventus paraded five midfielders in their formation against three of Chelsea’s.
The moment I realized this, I told a friend of mine that Mikel will work tonight and people will never appreciate him, as if I had known. Lampard, who is always attacking, left Mikel with a great task of blocking the ever offensive Juventus midfielders.
The pass that actually lead to the second goal was a ball Mikel dispossessed from a Juventus player. He laid the ball on the run for Hazard to catch up, but Hazard, who has been choked by the ever-ready Chiellini, seemed to have lost much strength and could not make any run for it.
Immediately after the match, Mikel apologised saying “If I want to make an excuse, I can, but for me, I gave the ball away. I put my hands up, we move. I am sorry about the mistake but there are no excuses”.
Some hours after this, it was learnt that Mikel has deleted his Twitter account because some fans were racially abusing him as if he was the only person that made mistake that night. David Luiz, John Terry, Ivanovic, and Ramires made more mistakes than Mikel on that night but it was the one Mikel was involved in that made the headlines.
As a faithful fan of Chelsea, if Mikel should leave Chelsea, good clubs will opt for him and then we will appreciate him because as human beings we tend not to appreciate what we have until we lose it.
Written by Debo Popoola
Follow him on Twitter @Popsondebor
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