He scores when he wants
He scores when he waaaaaants
John Obi Mikel, he rarely wants to score
John Obi Mikel scored the goal that secured top spot in the Premier League for Chelsea. Read that sentence again. Here, I'll force you to: John Obi Mikel scored the goal that secured top spot in the Premier League for Chelsea.
That's one way to change the conversation, because it's absolutely mindblowing. Nevermind the disappointing results against Everton and Basel. Nevermind the controversial team selection. John Obi Mikel, for the first time in 185 league games, scored a goal for Chelsea, and right-thinking supporters won't be able to fit much else into their heads at this point.
He scored in a game that went a little bit like...
...impotence. There wasn't much else for it. Chelsea spent the first half looking as though they were sitting on a multiple-goal lead despite it being 0-0. Whenever they tried quick passes, Fulham got back to block them off. Whenever they tried to force things, they yielded dangerous-looking counterattacks. Whenever they had dangerous set pieces, nothing came off.
It was a continuation of the problems the team has had since, oh about minute thirty of the opening game against Hull City. The Blues were sloppy in the attack, mistake-prone in defence and were having trouble holding onto the ball in dangerous areas of the pitch. The first half was phenomenally frustrating -- Darren Bent could easily have given the Cottagers a 1-0 lead early on when Pajtim Kasami picked him out only for Petr Cech to spring out to save the day -- and it never really looked like the Blues were ready to take it up a notch.
Then something surprising happened: We started to play. The visitors, who had been looking at least reasonable threatening before the break, were suddenly being pushed around the pitch and bottled up in their own half. This was no longer a lame, half-hearted attempt to sneak away three points, it was a superior side bullying their visitors and slowly but surely turning the screws.
A goal wasn't long in coming. Andre Schurrle made it, driving in from the left and hitting a low cross that David Stockdale couldn't catch. The ball squirmed loose, and good feet from Samuel Eto'o ensured that the Blues could get a second bite of the cherry. That too was pushed away, but this time it was into a much more dangerous area. Four yards in front of goal and with only Kieran Richardson to beat, Oscar made no mistake.
At 1-0, the weight of the world seemed to evaporate from the players' shoulders. It was still a nervy match -- 1-0 at home to Fulham is never comfortable -- but now Eden Hazard was moving well, Eto'o was pushing people around and the midfield was holding solid. The Cottagers managed one shot in the second half, and were spending their whole time defending.
The second goal was inevitable, but it certainly took its sweet time arriving. Ramires will have been frustrated not to have earned a penalty after Fernando Amorebieta clipped him on the turn, but no real damage was done. Stockdale then did extremely well to punch away Fernando Torres' near-post header. Then, on Chelsea's 13th(!) corner of the match, the moment arrived.
The cross came in at the back post. John Terry nodded it down into the Stamford Bridge turf. The ball seemed to hang in the air. Steve Sidwell looked on in horror. And Mikel sprung into the air, hooking his right leg towards the ball... and set it screaming past a bewildered Sascha Riether at the far post and in. It was Mikel's first goal since 2007, and his first in 185 league games.
It was a brilliant, beautiful moment, and secured the points for Chelsea. The Blues could and probably should have had more goals following Mikel's 84th-minute strike, but no matter. The match was completely safe, and mistakes are forgivable when the side's soaking in a hard-fought victory.
There's stuff to worry about. The team's yet to really gel, and that's having an affect on personnel decisions and the standard of play. It's hardly been an ideal start to the season. But for now, Chelsea are top of the table -- and John Obi Mikel has found his way onto the scoresheet.
That, I think, calls for some smiles.