Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mikel's adventure v Newcastle

Saw this piece on dailymail.co.uk and thought I should share this. I wrote something similar about Mikel's role in the Super Eagles. This feature echos some of the pointers I mentioned

 All pics, videos and vectors are credited to the Daily Mail

If you ever needed evidence of the importance of Nemanja Matic to this Chelsea team, here it was.

The Serbian powerhouse had played a part in every game this season, starting each of their Premier League and Champions League fixtures. 

Against Newcastle, the first time Matic was absent - unavailable due to a suspension - the unbeaten record, and all talk of an invincible season, slipped away.

John Obi Mikel came in for Nemanja Matic, but Chelsea looked a far weaker side without the Serbian
John Obi Mikel came in for Nemanja Matic, but Chelsea looked a far weaker side without the Serbian
Mikel was mostly solid defensively, but he offered little going forward, and his mistakes cost Chelsea
Mikel was mostly solid defensively, but he offered little going forward, and his mistakes cost Chelsea


Jose Mourinho, usually the master of the tactical adjustment, was unable to find a way around the problem of his missing midfield enforcer. 

John Obi Mikel, a seemingly ready-made replacement, slotted in alongside Cesc Fabregas, but the Nigerian, for all his ability, is just not up to the standard that Matic has set since returning to Stamford Bridge.

That is not to say Mikel had a terrible game - compared to most holding midfielders at this level, he performed admirably. But Chelsea's balance, their complete defensive solidity, just wasn't the same without their Serbian star.
In the first half, Mikel patrolled in front of the back four, interrupting attacks and moving the ball on when it came to him.

Mikel map vs Newcastle
Matic map vs Sunderland
John Obi Mikel screened the defence, but was not as all action as Matic in his previous away performance

He made plenty of tackles, and his passing statistics (44 passes with an accuracy of 97 per cent) were excellent.

While Chelsea were dominant, this was fine, but as Newcastle began to grow into the game in the latter stages of the half, Mikel's area of the pitch was the region they targeted.

In the 37th minute Jack Colback had his side's best chance of the half, arriving in the box before being denied by Thibaut Courtois. 

Moments later Remy Cabella was well-placed arriving from deep, before his touch let him down. There were signs, as Newcastle became a bit more expansive, that midfield runners would get more joy against Mikel than anyone has managed to get from Matic this season.

In the first half Cesc Fabregas was unable to spend as much time dictating the play as usual
In the first half Cesc Fabregas was unable to spend as much time dictating the play as usual
Jack Colback grew into the game, taking advantage of Matic's absence to dominate the midfield
Jack Colback grew into the game, taking advantage of Matic's absence to dominate the midfield


Colback was the most significant beneficial, the 'ginger Pirlo' taking the game by the scruff of the neck late in the first period.

However, it was not just in failing to dominate the Newcastle midfield that Mikel cost Chelsea - he also failed to compliment the side going forward the way Matic does.

For all his strength as a defensive midfielder, Matic offers much more in attack than his replacement, and Mikel's role limited Chelsea, placing the burden too heavily on the shoulders of Cesc Fabregas.

Fabregas, as ever, was Chelsea's creative force, again racking up over 100 passes, and starting most of the moves that brought them close to Rob Elliot's goal.

But his accuracy was down from 87.5 per cent in Chelsea's last game, to 76.5 per cent against Newcastle, as the home midfield worked hard to crowd him out.

With one fewer player to keep an eye on, Newcastle were able to put more pressure on Chelsea's most creative players, denying them time and space to pick a pass. 

Even later on, against 10 men, and a rookie goalkeeper, chances were few and far between.
Despite all of this, Mikel had the chance to make sure Matic's absence was forgotten. In the 57th minute, the midfielder arrived six yards out for an easy header seven yards out. Had he scored, Chelsea, at the very least, would still be unbeaten.

Colback put in a superb performance as Newcastle ended Chelsea's unbeaten start to the season
Fabregas and Mikel look on after Newcastle score their second goal to kill off the game

Fabregas and Mikel look on after Newcastle score their second goal to kill off the game
Newcastle worked the ball around Mikel, and into the space he should have been filling, for their second goal

Newcastle worked the ball around Mikel, and into the space he should have been filling, for their second goal

Instead, he headed wide, and within 60 seconds Newcastle had scored. While it's hard to blame the first goal on Mikel, for the second you can't help but notice the gaping hole in behind the Chelsea midfield. 

Would Matic have been there? We can never know. But Mikel was not, and Newcastle broke, the second goal giving them the buffer they needed to survive the Chelsea onslaught.  



1 comment:

  1. Lol, Mikel stays showing his frailties, Its time we accept that he is not the Mikel we dreamt he will turn out to be. Besides in my opinion Mikel has not improved his game one bit, still same old same old.

    Mikel just in case you are reading this my younger brother once asked, what you have learnt playing for Chelsea (mind you he is a chelsea fan)? He said and I quote "Look at Drogba, he learnt how to take free-kicks and corners, Look at Lampard you cannot deny his adaptation to the game as he grew older" to mention but a few.

    The starling truth in these words are that you can see how these players used the opportunity they had to learn something that in turn benefits there countries. You on the other hand just seat on the bench happily doing God knows what and happily so.

    I wish you can rise up to at least a fraction of what Sir Alex Ferguson saw in you that gave birth to a court case many years ago, maybe then dear we will stop bugging your life.

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