The official website ran an interview with Mikel ahead of Sunday's match. I admit I skipped it. After all, it's just Mikel; how interesting could it be? We all know what the midfielder is about, what he brings to the team, what his limitations are, and just how much of a loyal, quiet servant he's been to the club after the public spectacle that was his signing.
Yet, as the official website points out, the third longest-serving member of the team after John Terry and Petr Čech, Mikel has been through everything good and everything bad with Chelsea since 2006. Having experienced the wins, the losses, the pressures, and the expectations that are normal at a big club fighting for multiple trophies at the top level of the game, Mikel knows the mentality that's required at this level. So even if he (and the rest of the remaining Old Guard) aren't contributing directly on the pitch, the intangibles they bring to the dressing room can prove invaluable.
"The character and the belief that we have in this team, from the players that have been here a long time, I'm sure that will transform into the new players. It's always a big pressure playing for this club. You always expect to win trophies every year so I'm sure the new players that have come in will help us win more trophies."
"They will know what representing this team is all about. Wearing the blue shirt and representing Chelsea is a privilege. I'm sure they will learn from us and we will be able to teach them one or two things."
When we looked at it a couple years ago, we were shocked to find that by the age of 25, Mikel had accumulated a rather impressive number of Chelsea appearances and was on pace to reach 600 for the club by the time he hit his 30s. Despite new signings, new tactics, and new pecking orders, Mikel has steadily trundled on, collecting 74 more appearances over the last two seasons. Having averaged just under 40 matches/season in his Chelsea career, he now sits on 313 total appearances, good enough for 30th on the all-time list. With any luck -- and continued perseverance in the face of fan criticisms and competition from new faces like Nemanja Matić and
Paul Pogba Cesc Fàbregas -- Mikel could reach the top 10 before his time in the Chelsea shirt is up.
For funsies, here's the 34-strong Chelsea 300 club.
sources: Chelsea FC, Wikipedia