Mikel or Essien? Who will be Chelsea's enforcer next season?
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side are set to be major Premier League contenders next season, with the west Londoners strengthening and looking to regain the title from Manchester United.
With the Portuguese coach back at Stamford Bridge, all players will need to prove their worth and fight for a place in the starting position. One important position of key interest will be in defensive midfield, with Jon Obi Mikel and Michael Essien set to battle it out for the honour.
Chelsea’s title odds will be improved if they can get a central midfield enforcer in form to go toe-to-toe with their opponents. In Mikel and Essien they potentially have two players capable of filling the role, but both have issues to overcome if they are to prove a crucial link in Chelsea’s title challenge.
Mikel has been hot and cold since joining the Stamford Bridge outfit. At times he has shown the rounded game that many expected when he first signed for the Premier League side, and his industry and passing range are two of his major pluses. That said, the Nigeria international has had lapses in concentration and positional issues in his time with the club that are unforgivable at the highest level.
Essien was a key player for Mourinho is his first tenure at Chelsea, but has since suffered injury and dips in form. Mourinho clearly rates Essien as he brought him to Real Madrid on loan last season, and on his day the Ghanaian has the ability to be as good as anyone in the world in his position. An injury free and positive pre-season is needed for Essien to stand a chance of getting back to his best.
At first glance it would appear that Essien will reclaim his berth in the centre of Chelsea’s midfield if he can stay fit, with Mikel potentially victim to the wealth of talent at Mourinho’s disposal. It may well be that Mikel finds first-team opportunities limited, and Essien certainly has the ability to be a key player for the Stamford Bridge club once more if he stays fit.