The Return of Mikel

So, the African Cup of Nations and the hilarious defending it exhibits is finally over, and coupled with this will be the return of Mose...

So, the African Cup of Nations and the hilarious defending it exhibits is finally over, and coupled with this will be the return of Moses and Mikel. What this holds for the former is reasonably straight forward, Moses will be going straight back into the team and into the rotation policy of Benitez, as it was before.

The return of Mikel however raises more interesting questions about our midfield because the presence of Luiz in midfield before he left was a very new occurrence. The questions seem to lead on from each other depending of the answer of the previous one. Will Mikel replace Luiz as the more regular holding midfielder? If not are they likely to play together? If so what does this mean for Lampard, and to a slightly lesser extend Ramires? I’ll start at the beginning and work my way through.

Luiz and Mikel are the two greatest sources of split-opinions among the fans, and so naturally this subject is likely to split our opinions too. Who is better in that holding role? Well I think it’s obvious who is more disciplined (Mikel), but while discipline has its many benefits it does not necessarily mean that Luiz is the lesser of the two. Indeed Luiz is far more forward thinking, and not too much so that he neglects his defensive responsibilities, but naturally playing a defensive midfielder with this attitude has its risks. From my perspective, I see two players of equal quality, one conservative, one adventurous.

If Luiz wins the battle for that position, then is there a possibility of them playing together? Perhaps the answer to this is context dependent, since having them both sitting in front of our defence would help us to hold onto a lead if necessary (now when have we needed to do that recently….?) I can see Benitez doing this, he is after all known for defensive strength, even if that hasn’t been the case at Chelsea. If memory serves I think we saw this before Mikel left for the ACON.

Following from this, what would this mean for Lampard and Ramires? It wouldn’t mean as much for Ramires, as he is often used in the three behind the striker, but he would still undoubtedly have less playing time. This is not the case for Lampard though, and so his minutes on the pitch could be significantly reduced. You would wonder why Benitez would do this when, despite arguments over whether Lampard’s overall performances are consistent, he is nonetheless making an impact in every game with goals and assists. Well, Benitez has used crazier tactics before….

I will finish with what is most likely and what I myself want to see, and it just so happens that they are the same thing. I think Mikel is going to replace Luiz, and start there the majority of the time. This kind of takes away from the rest of my thoughts a little, but they nonetheless portray all the other implications for our midfield if you disagree with me.

I think that Luiz is one of Benitez’s favourite players, and I also think that he will happily get both players into the team by playing Luiz at CB (causing more discussion over our CBs and RB but I won’t go into that). Whilst I’m sure we’ll see the two of them playing together there when defending a lead, I don’t think it would be a regular starting phenomenon because two defensive midfielders kind of defeat the point of the double-pivot: one defensive, one free-roaming and ball-playing.

I look forward to Mikel’s and Moses’ return. Congratulations to them on winning the competition, and particularly to Moses on becoming the player of the tournament. Mikel stood out as one of its best players too, and our starting eleven, bench and depth will be far stronger going forward from now on.

Follow on twitter: @cody_bound

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Carefree & KTBFFH!


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