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Football: Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel brings balance to team – Guus Hiddink


Guus Hiddink insists that John 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.”

Chelsea have now kept back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League
after securing a goalless draw against Manchester United at Old
Trafford last month, and Hiddink admits tightening up the defence was
his first priority upon returning to Stamford Bridge as interim manager.
“If the team hasn’t been doing well for a long period then it is
important to look for security,” he added. “That’s why we emphasised
good, hard work in a tactical defensive way. I don’t like to see a team
drop back very far and seek false security but to look forward and get
the ball forward as soon as possible. When they get the ball they know
how to play.
“We don’t need to add a lot to the quality of the players. They are
blessed by nature with a big quality but they have to know that when
things are not going well, you have to look for the causes.
“That’s why the very talented players started working on the dirty
work and not just the beautiful game — because this league is very
demanding and if you think you can do it just on your natural quality
this league will kill you.
“The attitude is okay and automatically their quality comes through.
The efficiency of this quality in the past half-year has been very low.
We talked about that, we did it in training — small conversations —
but if they have this quality and the team is well organised they must
produce and then we can enjoy how they play.”

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