The Chelsea number 12 doesn't usually win the plaudits. And his solitary goal in more than 180 appearances for Chelsea suggests he’s certainly no prolific goalscorer. Nor is he creative or instrumental in dictating play. So what exactly does Mikel do, and what was so good about his Swansea City performance ?
Well, the Nigerian midfielder is so important at keeping the balance between defence and attack, and displayed these qualities perfectly against Swansea. His defensive capabilities allowed Mata, Oscar and Hazard to roam free in front of him, knowing that should they lose the ball then he would be there to block any potential counter attack.
Mikel was a rock in front of the back four, making three tackles, seven interceptions, six effective clearances, and committing just four fouls in the process. Alongside the ever running Ramires, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho could even relax when Swansea were dominant in possession for long spells - knowing his defence were being well shielded.
When in possession, the Nigerian midfielder was just as comfortable. Despite making just 32 passes, 88% of those found its intended target, and the speed in which Mikel released the ball to set up possible counter attacks was equally impressive.
Mourinho has been a big admirer of Mikel, and even when the Nigerian gets stuck in or arrives late into a challenge, Mourinho has always stood by the player and re-iterated that these things are common in the English game.
Only a few days ago, the Telegraph reported that the Portuguese boss defended Mikel’s late challenge on Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, and laughed off the suggestion that his midfielder deserved a red card.
'You know, they (players from certain countries) like to cry. That's tradition. But I prefer to say, and I was telling it to the fourth official, that English people would never provoke a situation like that.
'If you have a contact or the opponent was aggressive, let's go, keep going, this is English football'.
Playing for a manager that values defensive discipline and hard work, John Obi Mikel has started to earn the respect of the Chelsea fans, and he is now a key player in this Chelsea team.
What did you make to John Obi Mikel’s defensive display at Stamford Bridge ?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald