Nigeria’s Mikel Obi was handed his first premier league 90 minutes against Manchester United on Monday night by new caretaker boss at Chelsea Guus Hiddink to confirm his new status as a very important part of the Dutchman’s regim.
It was a clear statement that the manager has confidence in the Super Eagles player who has been with the Blues since 2006 and regarded one of the most experienced players in the current Chelsea squad.
During Jose Mourinho’s first spell as Chelsea manager, he said Mikel will become a world class player in two seasons but in the third season after the Nigerian had developed as a proper first team player, the Portuguese was sacked.
However, Mikel still did enough to stay at the club, playing under various managers: Avram Grant, Felipe Scolari, Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Vilas Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, and Rafa Benitez and even Hiddink during his first time as Chelsea’s caretaker boss – that’s where he first came in contact with the Nigerian’s talent.
Both have mutual respect for each other and it wasn’t any surprise when they praised each other.
The Dutchman revealed about his team recently, he said: “When we have a midfield with all creative players it’s beautiful but sometimes you need a balance and I thought John Obi gave us that balance.
Mikel said: “He is always like a father figure to the team, speaking to the players individually, putting an arm around them and getting feedback from the team on what we think problems are and then trying to fix them.
It wasn’t mere words from both parties as they showed that they work harmoniously together in the two games against Watford and Sunderland.
Mikel came on in the second half against Sunderland as they romped to a 3-1 victory and played the whole 90 minutes as they battled to a 2-2 draw against an Odion Ighalo inspired Watford at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are currently placed 14th on the premier league with 20 points after 19 matches majorly because they’ve started the season poorly and it caused manager Jose Mourinho his job in his second spell at the club.
The defending champions need key players like Eden Hazard, John Terry, Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas to improve as they seek a top four finish but the manager knows exactly what the team needs and Mikel is the answer – his reasons are simple.
“When you have the creative players such as Matic, Oscar, Willian coming inside and Cesc as well, sometimes you have to choose in a different way.”
Going forward, Mikel will provide still alongside Nemanja Matic in the Chelsea midfield which will give Hazard, Willian, Oscar, Fabregas, and Costa the freedom they need to breakdown teams upfront.