Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will need to reinstate Super Eagles Captain Mikel Obi in Chelsea’s midfield for the Blues to stop leaking in goals and hopefully go on to win matches as fans of the Stamford Bridge club craves.
The former premier league champions have only kept one clean sheet this season and in the absence of John Terry they lost 2-1 at home to Liverpool and just last week they were pummeled by 3-0 in the London Derby by in-form Arsenal with Nigerian youngster Alex Iwobi named the Man-of-the-Match.
Interestingly, two weeks before the Derby they drew 2-2 at Swansea with Terry leading the defence which raises huge concern, if they really missed the former England Captain’s leadership or a protective shield just in front of the back four.
Need for Mikel
Mikel is into his 11th season with Chelsea which makes him one of the longest serving players in the team alongside John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic since the departures of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.
However, the 29-year-old is yet to taste action this season for the premier league outfit since he returned from the Olympics where he won Bronze with the Nigerian Dream Team VI.
Mikel has shown that he is ready for the highly intensive matches in the premier league this season with his brilliant showing for Nigeria in Rio and most recently against Tanzania in the final game of the 2017 African Nations Cup qualifying round where a wonder goal by Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho secured a 1-0 victory for the Three-time African champions.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho referred to Mikel as the ‘stabilizer’ because he brings balance to a team and his calmness is infectious and that’s something Blues can do with at the moment.
Who should Mikel bench: Matic or Kante?
Nemanja Matic was a huge influence for Chelsea when they won the 2014/15 premier league title under former manager Jose Mourinho and was hailed as the best holding midfielder in the English game.
N’Golo Kante also played a vital role as Leicester City created history by winning the premier league title in the 2015/16 season under another former Chelsea manager Claudio Raneiri.
However, the difference between the two players mentioned is that while Matic has dropped form and almost unrecognizable from the played that was once reveled, Kante has remained same but with the Blues his workload has become too much because of the inefficiencies of the big Serbian this season.
Last season, both players recorded two defensive errors each in over 30 matches and were not afraid to go forward when the opportunity presents itself, something more common with Matic this season and have caused the Blues in important matches especially in their last two games against Liverpool and Arsenal.
Ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Hull City, the wise thing for Conte to do is play Mikel alongside Kante while Matic drops to the bench. Hopefully, Terry recovers on time from injury to provide leadership at the back while Cesc Fabregas will have the freedom to join the attack.
Mikel will comfortably seat in front of the back four and will 100% not lose possession of the ball even under the most intense pressure. He has a better pass completion rate of 90% and that can aid the Blues in the midfield are before they set their attack.
Mikel is not the most athletic player but his intelligence enables him to cover a lot of grounds and stop the opponents attack before it is lunched – that’s the qualities that have kept the former Lyn Oslo star for eleven seasons at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte must tap into these qualities to save Chelsea’s season.