Stats: Should Tottenham or Arsenal make a move for Chelsea's Mikel?

John Obi Mikel 2

John Obi Mikel could be the perfect cure for Arsenal and Tottenham’s defensive woes.

Mikel has been nothing but a squad player at Stamford Bridge this season, with his limited style of defensive play doing little to worry the more all-rounded Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic.

The duo - both signed in 2014 - have claimed the double-pivot starting places as their own, and they have arguably been two of the best midfielders in the Premier League this term. When either is missing, it has been on Oscar to drop deep and fill the void, or Ramires to come off the bench and provide his own brand of energy-filled midfield play.

With all the bases covered, Mourinho has had little need to call upon John Obi Mikel this campaign, and the 27-year-old - something of a veteran at Stamford Bridge since joining the club in 2006 - could be keen to move away from West London in January. He has yet to make a Premier League start this season, and he has registered just 107 minutes of action in six substitute appearances.

A remarkably competent Premier League player, Mikel could be the perfect target for two of Chelsea’s London rivals - Arsenal and Tottenham.

The two North London clubs are struggling in remarkably similar circumstances this season, with attacking ability the only thing covering up evident defensive frailties. Both clubs are in the market for a defensive midfielder, and Mikel - who is one of the best in the top flight at playing that role - could be the answer to allow the respective side’s attacking talents to prosper.

  SeasonMins PlayedMins per Tackle WonMins per ClearanceMins per Duel WonMins per InterceptionMins per PassPassing AccuracyMins per TouchAppearances
John Obi Mikel 2013-2014 1064 39 32 16 44 1.7 89.% 1.3 24

Using last season as a guide, Mikel was a reliable base for the defensive play often utilised by Jose Mourinho. The Nigerian frequently completed every different type of defensive action, and he recycled the ball effectively, touching the ball just under once a minute, and playing an accurate pass slightly less often than that. He won a tackle every 39 minutes, a clearance every 32 minutes and won a duel every 16 minutes. He doesn’t impose himself upon a game in the manner of usurper Nemanja Matic, but he is a quietly effective shield - a player that neither Arsenal or Spurs possess.

  SeasonMins PlayedMins per Tackle WonMins per ClearanceMins per Duel WonMins per InterceptionMins per PassPassing AccuracyMins per TouchAppearances
Mathieu Flamini 2014-2015 743 35 50 17 29 1.6 92% 1.2 9
Mikel Arteta 2014-2015 450 50 90 16 90 1.1 93% 0.9 7

Arsenal commonly utilise either Mikel Arteta or Mathieu Flamini as the holding midfielder, and they are both more rounded players than Mikel. However, this costs the Gunners, as they are less effective as outright defensive midfielders - as highlighted by their stats. This season, Flamini has been closest to Mikel’s best form, roughly equalling him in all areas of defensive play, but still lagging behind with how frequently the Nigerian performs his actions. Arteta is far off the pace, and he is only performing better with his passing stats - but not at a big enough level to make up for his weakness in the defensive third.

  SeasonMins PlayedMins per Tackle WonMins per ClearanceMins per Duel WonMins per InterceptionMins per PassPassing AccuracyMins per TouchAppearances
Ryan Mason 2014-2015 610 29 51 12 51 1.8 83% 1.1 7
Mousa Dembélé 2014-2015 355 24 0 10 177 1.5 89% 1.1 8
Nabil Bentaleb 2014-2015 218 55 43.6 27 54 1.3 86% 1.0 4

For Spurs, who have Paulinho and Benjamin Stambouli sitting on the sidelines, Ryan Mason has been the standout midfielder, performing a similar role to that of Matic at Chelsea. His energetic defensive play has helped the side in their high-pressing game, but he has looked more effective when playing as an attacking presence - such as the number 10 behind the lone striker. To make up for his attacking mindset, Moussa Dembele has played alongside him, but he is far from being a defensively-trained shield, and Nabil Bentaleb has failed to build on the promising season he enjoyed last year.

At the age of 27, it could be believed that Mikel still has his best years ahead of him, but it is hard to see those years being whilst on the books of Chelsea. Arsenal and Spurs have completed business with the Blues before, and signing a midfielder who has played nearly all his career in England could be the way to resolve problems that have been evident for a number of years in North London.

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