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Keep, Sell, Loan: John Obi Mikel's 2015-16 season in review

Taking a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of each and every Chelsea player's season. Next up, John Obi Mikel, also known as Guus Hiddink's right-hand man.

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Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Appearances: 26 starts (+7 as substitute).
Minutes: 1780 in Premier League; 382 in domestic cups; 246 in Champions League.
Statistics (per 90 minutes, Premier League): 61.14 attempted passes (90% pass completion); 1.86 tackles won (34.3% successful tackles); 1.61 interceptions.

John Obi Mikel has been a loyal servant of Chelsea Football Club since the 2006-07 season. Despite being a talented attacking midfielder in his youth football days, Mikel was deployed by then-manager José Mourinho as a holding midfielder instead due to his frame and strength, and after some early disciplinary issues, he transitioned seamlessly to his new position. While he was never as good as his legendary predecessor Claude Makélélé, Mikel has done a good enough job to earn his keep under 10 different managers in the last 10 seasons.

Entering the 2015-16 season, that looked set to change.  His participation in the squad had diminished significantly with the arrival of Nemanja Matic in January 2014, who slotted perfectly into our pivot and Mourinho's tactical plans.  Mikel was the subject of numerous rumours - most of them with Turkey as his destiny - but in the end, he decided to stick around and witness the downfall of Mourinho and his midfield of choice in the first of the season.  Mikel himself hardly featured, making only five starts (two in the league) and a handful of late-game sub appearances to try to see out results.

Guus Hiddink took charge of the club at mid-season and things suddenly improved for Mikel. As basically Hiddink's right-hand man - a relationship built during the manager's first spell at the club back in 2009, when Mikel was also a key player under his guidance - the midfielder saw his levels of participation grow significantly to a point where he was a staple in the team.  Mikel responded in kind with rave reviews on Hiddink's managerial skills while taking shots at his former boss.

As ever, Mikel's solid but unspectacular play tended to divide the fanbase.  Things generally got worse when Hiddink trotted out the Mikel-Matic combination, truly stifling midfield creativity and space (and yet still often leaving the defense exposed).  But after a decade at the club, Mikel (and his strengths and weaknesses specifically) should be a known, expected quantity.

While he even contributed a rare goal (just his 6th in well over 350 games), his main accomplishment was bringing the sexy balance back to the team, as pointed out by Hiddink in January. Injuries to defenders and Hiddink's reluctance to use young Matt Miazga after his error against Swansea City in April even saw Mikel deployed at centre back towards the end of the season, though it's safe to say that's not a position of promise for the 29-year-old. "Can't teach an old dog new tricks", as they say.

The Good: The 3-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in January, in which Mikel had one of his best games in a Chelsea shirt in years.

The Bad: Mikel and Fàbregas couldn't cope with the pressure and skill of PSG's midfield trio of Blaise Matuidi, Thiago Motta and Adrien Rabiot in the 2-1 home defeat in the return leg of our Champions League Round of 16 match-up. A difficult task on a good day; an impossible task when our players fail to show up.

The Ugly: Mikel playing center back.

Verdict: Mikel finished with 30 or more appearances for the 9th time in 10 seasons, and now has 374 games to his name in his Chelsea career. He is 15th on the all-time list, only 6 games behind King Peter Osgood and 7 behind King Didier Drogba.  He has one more year left on his current deal, but there have been rumblings that he wants guarantees on playing time to stay around. Despite his general usefulness as a midfield option, it might be time to let go of him after all those years.  To blow the final whistle on the Human Final Whistle's Chelsea career, one could say.  Latest rumors have him linked with lands near and far, from Italy to Turkey and all the way to China.

His contributions to the team's achievements over the years - such as his performance in our Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich in 2012 - won't ever be forgotten, and he will remain a cult hero to many in the enormous and diverse worldwide Chelsea fanbase regardless of what happens. But on the pitch, his conservative, reactive playing style might not suit our future plans with Antonio Conte.  There's certainly a case for Mikel's (foreign) spot to be taken by a more energetic, proactive midfielder, someone more in the mould of, say, Leicester City's N'Golo Kanté.

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