Yesterday was the week-iversary of our Champions League triumph!!! In celebration I watched the replay of the game and dropped some money at the online Chelsea Megastore. While watching the game this time, I was significantly less edgy and was able to analyze the game more than just praying my heart won't explode. I noticed something early in the game and the further the game progressed the more I noticed it was a trend. That is that Mikel placed Lampard and our defenders in a perilous position constantly. Let me first say I'm not a Mikel hater. He gives tremendous effort for the squad and has been our best option on the right side of the pivot with Essien being a shell of his old self. I may sound over critical during my assessment, but this was a critical game, and this is all coming without any knowledge of the tactics RDM and co gave Mikel. That being said I noticed he put the defense in detrimental positions multiple times using with 3 different reasons: lunging, positioning and lack of effort. His passing wasn't great either but I only noticed that as an issue one or two times.
The first time I noticed this was very early in the game, when Mikel lunged for a tackle too late, which put everyone out and, by luck, Schweinstager had a strong touch and it fell for Ashley, who sent it to Mikel, who returned it to Bayern. Minutes later he lunged again at Schweinstager, was nutmegged and gave up the first chance of the game. He did this quite a few times, often at the midfield, which left Lampard, Cahill and Luiz at disadvantages as our fullbacks were pushing up on occasion.
Then I started looking for his positioning during the game. With Ryan Bertrand at the LW and Lampard on the left side of the pivot going box to box it was my opinion that Mikel's job was to work on the right side assisting Cahill and Bosingwa. Bayern put the ball on the left side quite a bit and with Lampard pushing forward and not being quick enough to make it back on defense before Bayern it was understandable that he would work his way over to that side on occasion. But more often than not I noticed Mikel was on the top of the box on the left side, which left a huge hole in our defense. The play which this most angered me was during the quick throw in which Muller sent it to Gomez who then put it in between his legs, Lampard got to it first sent it to Bosingwa who then missed the ball while trying to clear and surrendered the throw. Where was Mikel? On the left side at the top corner of the box watching and not marking anyone. Far too often during the game I saw Mikel standing by himself in an area that would not help out the defense. He was playing specific areas, but he wasn't playing where the game needed him. He left way too many passing lanes open and stood behind the dangerous areas when a cross seemed likely.
The thing that frustrated me the most was the lack of effort he displayed. This was not a sweeping display, however when he needed to give a little extra he sat at the top of the box and watched. On the play that Robben had his first chance and Cech blocked it then it hit the bar, it was Mikel that was on him. Robben used Ribery and Bosingwa as a screen and went around them. What Mikel should have done was go underneath, and meet Robben on the other side. What he actually did was stop and watch the play unfold. Kalou was in the corner and he came flying in, was late to the shot, but after it deflected off the crossbar, he ran straight into the middle and would've been the one to clear the ensuing scissor kick if Lampard hadn't been infront of him. Where was Mikel during all this? Still at the top of the [fun]ing box watching.
This is by no means an exhausted list. These are just a few of the blunders (from only the first half I might add). I suggest you re-watch the game also so you can see some of these for yourself (also its so much fun to watch again and again and again).One thing I hate is when people list problems without solutions. WHether or not this is a serious problem is debatable, I don't think this performance is at all a career trend, but it is something that needs to be fixed. Watching the film of this game and a talk with the manager could help, however this pointed out a need for a defensive minded midfielder that could act as a supplying bridge between the defense and the attackers.
One player I have taken notice of is Casemiro from Sao Paulo. He is a 19 year old, strong tackling midfielder who started his career as a striker. HIs versatility has been a major talking point for the scouts, being able to cover deep defensively, then join the attack. Another major advantage he shows his leadership skills; he was the captain for the U20 Brazil squad that won the 2011 South American Youth Championship. I've only seen two games of his and I have to admit that I was watching for Lucas, but after hearing his name so many times I started watching him more closely. He has been linked with AS Roma, Genoa, AC Milan, QPR and Arsenal. The DailyMail reported that Sao Paulo rated him at 10 million pounds (I do not know how to make the symbol)