So, the title. I don't know if it's good, or if it is misleading, but I'm gonna run with it because I think it gives a good insight into what I'm gonna ramble about for a bit today.
We need to talk about John Obi Mikel.
Yesterday, as you know, Chelsea faced off against Manchester United in a game that had many Chelsea fans' thoughts ranging from, "Not in the face," and "How fast can this season end?" And, after the first half, the pessimism and apprehensive fear that most of us felt was fully justified. If you count the coulda-been-so-much-more performance against West Brom, and the other game we played this week (refusing to mention it by name), we had played 135 (is this 90 plus 45? Yes?) minutes of awful football and a further 90 minutes of football that could be best described as 'meh'.
And then that second half happened.
Full disclosure: I watched it later, recorded, and so didn't get much of an outside opinion on the game other than the ever-blossoming wisdom of Gus Johnson and Ian Wright (sidebar: I was ambivalent on Gus until this game, and I now think Ian Wright is a fraud). What changed? Lampard for Mikel; Hazard for Moses.
When the change first happened, I was a little resistant. See, I believed that Mikel for Lampard was treading water at best, and then Hazard for Moses was another sign of the insipid subs we're so often blessed with. This was not the case, and then Chelsea turned back into the most creative and attacking team in the league. I missed you, boys.
But I wanted to write about John Obi Mikel (finally, the crowd says). See, after the game the comments turned into a Mikel discussion. There are Mikel haters and Mikel lovers and they mix like an organic solvent with a non-organic chemical. If I had to pick a camp, I'd have to say that I'm in the former, but please let me explain myself and don't hate me.
See, I think Mikel should play every game. Like, potentially every single one. As far as I can tell, he doesn't really get tired. He's good in the pivot. He does everything that we really need him to do. He allows the forward line to play without leaving the defending line out to dry.
Having said that, I think he's a B-level player. An 81 on FIFA. I believe him to be on the second tier of the world's defensive midfielders. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I think John Obi Mikel is a player who exceeds at a few things, and has some very real limitations. He's deployed as a shield for the defense, but I think he can be exploited if someone drives at him directly (I was really scared when Cole was caught upfield and he covered at left back and was subsequently taken on by Valencia, but he acquitted himself well). To me, Mikel is a guy who is very aware positionally but isn't always capable of making the play that he should.
Case in point, here, is the Manchester City game. He was pretty bad in that game. He has very little passing range and generally slows down our attacking play, in my opinion. But, I think he's an extremely useful player who could start every game on a championship-level team (United would probably take him). And so, I think the argument about being 'Chelsea quality' or not (one that I have made, believe me) is a little misleading. See, as long as we have some great players, not every position need be stacked with the world's best player. Mikel is as good as a manager can make him, and therein lies our problem.
Chelsea have had many players who have been best described as 'mediocre' or 'incredibly average' (Kalou! Kalou! Kalou!) but these players can contribute for a good team. I'm not a huge Mikel fan, but I don't think we should sell him either. We should maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses instead of expecting him to be Xabi Alonso.
So, I don't know. This is my attempt to be moderate on an apparently inflammatory issue. I'm sorry it was so long and not particularly filling, but I just wanted to let everyone know that Mikel isn't the best in the world and that's not a problem. He's our guy, what more could we want (other than that one goal, because the Bridge would go crazy)?
Also, some quick questions (for all two of you still reading [if I'm lucky]):
1. Do people hate Kevin Kostka or do they hate on him in the comments? This is probably a lame question, but I think he's pretty awesome in the posts I've read.
2. I'm considering writing a 'mentality of a Chelsea fan/how a random American chose Chelsea without having any idea that they were the newly-rich guys and bandwagon team' post which would be pretty soft in terms of football and cover a lot more psychology and perspective issues. Any interest?
And, uh... Release the Kraken.