Guus Hiddink insists that Jon Obi Mikel is the “ideal player” to bring balance to Chelsea’s midfield after the Nigeria international shone in Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
Mikel was a surprise starter alongside the returning Cesc Fabregas at Selhurst Park with Nemanja Matic dropping to the bench, and completed 78 of 82 passes from the base of midfield as Chelsea produced their most convincing performance of the season to move six points clear of the Premier League relegation zone.
Goals from Oscar, Willian and Diego Costa provided an emphatic scoreline for Chelsea but, speaking at his news conference after the match, Hiddink was keen to highlight Mikel’s less glamorous but equally important contribution to the win.
“He played very well as he also did in the previous games,” the Dutchman insisted of Mikel. “He’s the ideal player in my option to bring balance to the team.
“If the team is not willing to defend well or have the right balance then you concede a lot of goals. I thought John Obi can be one of the key figures in getting the balance back. On top of that the talented players can then explore their qualities.
“He can recover the radar. He knows the game very well. He knows where the strength of the opponent is and he knows exactly how to cope with that. He has a very good eye, a very good nose, and a very good sense of where to recover.
“He doesn’t do it in a very brutal way — he’s very, very elegant. What I like to see very much is not just a quality player but a player who can defend so smoothly. It’s beautiful to see. He doesn’t lose many balls, he’s good in short passing. I don’t expect and I don’t ask him to make the decisive final pass. He can but no, we let the other players do that.”
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