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The Anchor of Chelsea

Mikel John Obi is a legend in the making and much of Chelsea’s success this season is owed to the powerful central defensive midfielder’s progression. The departure of Claude Makélélé for Paris Saint-Germain was like Thierry Henry was to Theo Walcott. Obi has embraced the challenge of fulfilling Chelsea’s pivotal position, what has now come to be called the “Makélélé Role.”

There are some strange coincidences regarding the the correlation between Obi & Makélélé. They were both captured by Chelsea at around £16 million. Makélélé arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2003, but was ineffective. Claudio Ranieri would be sacked and replaced by José Mourinho for the 2004-05 season and only then did Makélélé begin to shine, under his new manager. The Frenchman would be regarded as Chelsea’s player of the season, while Chelsea would go on to win a league title they hadn’t won in 50 years.

And now, Makélélé is gone and so is Avram Grant. Mikel John Obi looks to be having his most promising season under new manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari. The only question left to ask is whether they can win back the title from Manchester United and how much influence Obi has if this is to happen.

Chelsea looks most fluid and mature under the influence of Obi in the middle. He’s become the harness of Chelsea’s midfield & more of an enforcer than his predecessor. In his absence, there is a lack of smooth forward movement, as he’s become the one who’s most comfortable at being the anchor – the one who can hold the ball in the middle and slowly build the play. He allows the other midfield players to fulfill their roles and attack without any uncertainty or notion of having to retreat in order to defend.

The games against Tottenham & Wigan were both very rigid and unsatisfactory. Mickaël Essien and Juliano Belletti took turns at the central defensive midfield role with Obi injured. But the Chelsea midfield was dominated with Essien & Belletti both wanting to roam, while Florent Malouda & Joe Cole were forced to defend. And if you look at the matches since Obi’s return to the line-up – against Manchester City & FC Girondins de Bordeaux, the Chelsea midfield looks settled and organized. Obi’s dominance will play a key part if Chelsea is to win anything this season.

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