After 10-and-a-half years of service to the club, John Obi Mikel has left the shores of England to faraway China, as he starts a new adventure in the Chinese Super League, with Tianjin TEDA.
While Mikel played a more advance role for his national team, in the Chelsea colours, he was more about being a simple ball playing midfielder, who kept things simple in front of the defence, retained possession and had that positional awareness to sense danger, while also having the positional discipline to keep things tight at the back, and give the forward players the impetus to go on and attack.
In Mikel, Chelsea had a Mr Reliable, and he started his journey with the Blues as a buzzing teenager. It will be safe to say that Chelsea don’t need to go to the transfer market to replace the Nigerian international, as we already have his replacement in Nathaniel Chalobah.
Many were surprised at Antonio Conte’s decision not to send Chalobah out on loan, knowing that he didn’t really get enough game time in his last loan spell at Napoli. However, the Italian saw something in the young midfielder that we didn’t all see, and just few games after playing with the senior team, we all could see that the 22-year-old has indeed come of age.
While Pedro stole the headlines against Peterborough with an amazing performance, and talks of Michy Batshuayi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek followed, not much was said about Nathaniel Chalobah’s performance in that game, and we can all agree that the youngster was amazing.
He kept things simple in midfield, his ball retention as well as decision making was excellent, and he shielded his defence with such suave and expertise that made it look so simple. His passing was neat and tidy, and his partnership with Cesc Fabregas was a joy to watch.
With more game time under his belts, Chalobah could blossom into one of the best in the league and go on to spend another decade at the club, and winning trophies as well.
To me, he’s the perfect replacement for Mikel Obi.