Mikel, the man who causes the most split opinion amogst all Chelsea fans. Now that Kalou has gone, he is being highlighted even more as the player some Chelsea fans seem to be split on. I am split on him, which is something you won’t often hear from one of us. When he joined I initially thought, hmm… Well United wanted him, and they generally sign good players, and I trust Jose, so he must be a top young prospect.
I grew to dislike Mikel because he should be a top player. He had all those attributes that most footballers want, look at his pass completion percentages, the way he break up play, he was the heir to Makelele if there ever way one. People will complain here and say that he’s not like Maka, but actually he’s the closest thing on the planet to Makelele at the moment. Without sounding critical, he isn’t Kaka, he isn’t Lampard and he certain isn’t Ozil. That’s no disrespect to him, because I think he has talents elsewhere. His strong physical presence means he can win the ball back from even the biggest midfielders (maybe not Yaya Toure) he can see the game when he sits in front of the back four, and he can keep things very simple. When you look at Hazard and Mata on the break with Torres all you want Mikel to do is defend and then give the ball to them as quickly as possible because they are our biggest threat on the break.
And happily he is doing this. Since the season started I have been thinking he actually will start to perform. Under Ancelotti he was being moulded to be a Pirlo, who could make 60 yard passes through to our striker, but I don’t think that played to his strength’s and natural game. This is what I think annoyed a lot of fans, because it was a case of do the simple things first and then worry about playing the “quarter-back pass”. It wasn’t what he was good at, and I think the stats would back that up by his low tally of assists in his game. But starting an attack is different to creating an attack, and this is something he certainly does have in his game. He can win the ball back and distribute it quickly, in fact he’s not just capable he’s actually very good at it. Sometimes he is too slow, but often this is because we cannot afford to attack every time we win the ball. I think Hazard would be dropping dead halfway through the second half if that was the case!
Whilst I think he can still improve (which should be taken more a compliment than anything else) I think he is starting to fulfil a role that suits his a lot more. Di Matteo seems to have told him not to worry about playing the incredible 60 yard pass, and simply to focus on changing the game from defence to attack.
I have read a lot of articles about him, and they are generally either massively for or massively against him, but hopefully this one doesn’t come across like that. I think he should be playing in the side, because his performances merit his inclusion but I also think he is still improving his game.
I read an article on this site which talked about how much Mikel passed the ball forward and it genuinely took me a few minutes to get my head around how often he passed the ball forward. A possible explanation to that is whether he passed the ball 5 feet forward or 25 yards forward. I don’t with this to sound as though I am going against my original point on how Mikel can keep improving because it shouldn’t. A grounded pass of 25 yards is not the same as the cutting ball that Ancelotti wanted him to play, but it has more difficulty than a 5 yards pass that most of us could achieve. He is no Xabi Alonso, in my opinion he will never be that sort of player, but the way he has played so far this season has shown a massive improvement, and if he keeps going this way he will be regarded as one of our best players. Since the start of the season he has very much impressed me, keeping things short and simple, and doing his job quietly.