Should Mikel Obi play for the Eagles?

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I
could have titled this piece, “What is the relevance of Mikel Obi in the Super
Eagles?” or “The Mikel Obi question?” or “Who needs Mikel Obi?” or lots of
other things but I chose the one I chose because I got confused.

 


It
is going to sound distasteful and downright a betrayal of some sorts that a Nigerian
is even asking about the relevance of John Mikel Obi in the Nigerian national
team, Super Eagles but a lot of people are.
Since
after the era of the likes of Richard Owubokiri, Victor Ikpeba, Sunday Oliseh,
Taribo West, and lately Nwankwo Kanu, Mikel Obi has been our highest profile
player based on the club he features for regularly and the laurels he has won
for that club, Chelsea.
However,
Nigerians complain that his performance for the national team is a direct
opposite of how he turns up for Chelsea and he has been called names like, nonchalant,
not committed, disgrace and manymore expletives worse than this.
Is
Mikel Obi really not committed to the Nigerian cause? Does he put in less than
he does for Chelsea when he plays for Nigeria? Maybe there is a reason why John
Mikel Obi has not been too outstanding for Nigeria.

Pre 2005 Mikel Obi
Many
Nigerians did not watch the FIFA U 17 World Cup in Finland in 2003 but Mikel
Obi did play in that team coached by Austin Eguavoen as a creative player in
attacking midfield.
It
was not until two years later when Samson Siasia coached the U20 team to the World
Youth Championships that people saw the maestro that John Mikel Obi was.
Between
Mikel Obi and Lionel Messi who played in the same competition, the world had
just seen two of the best young footballers who would have gone on to dominate
world football.
Nigerians
began to have hope that we had finally seen a midfield replacement for Austin
Jay Jay Okocha but life took a hard turn on Nigerians and their reality.
However,
Messi went on to turn the wow audiences the world over but not Mikel Obi with
reasons not far fetched.
Mikel
Obi was snapped up by Chelsea at a time Jose Mourinho seriously wanted to
create a direct replacement for the aging French defensive midfielder, Claude
Makalele and Mikel turned out his man.
The
smooth playing, creative and mesmerizing dribbles of Mikel began to change to
man marking, shielding and hard tackling one.
It
took a while but Mikel Obi sooner than later began to play the part. Even after
Jose Mourinho departed from Chelsea, Avram Grant, Luis Scolari, Guus Hiddink,
Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas Boas and Roberto Di Matteo continued to play him
in defensive midfield or as we say in local parlance in Nigeria, Standing 4.
Mikel Obi in the
Eagles
However,
Nigerians and our coaches decided to live in the past. We refused to accept the
fact that John Mikel Obi would not be that Jay Jay Okocha replacement and
rather rained curses on Jose Mourinho for killing the talent of our promising
footballer.
Rather
than gauge Mikel Obi’s growth and compare him with the likes of Michael
Carrick, Javier Macherano, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Lucas Leiva or Cheikh
Tiote, Nigerians were rather arguing that he would have been at Lionel Messi’s
level or even higher if his promising career was not destroyed by the Special
One.
At
the Super Eagles, things were not different.
Between
2006 and now, Nigeria has had Austin Eguavoen, Berti Vogts, Shaibu Amodu, Lars
Lagerback, Samson Siasia and now Stephen Keshi as coaches and each one of them
except Keshi has used Mikel as an offensive player.
Now
I may not blame Eguavoen much because he coached the Eagles in 2006, just one
three years after he coached Mikel at U17 level and one year after the whole
world saw him wow audiences at the FIFA World Youth Championship.
But
what excuse did the other coaches have? Mikel has averaged 39 games a season
since 2006 for Chelsea so it beggared belief that our coaches always insisted
he played in a “strange” position whenever he reported for national duty which
was for 5 days at best each time he was here as compared to the fact that he
spent the rest of the year training and playing as a defensive midfielder. That
just went to show the kind of people that had coached Nigeria in the last six
years.
I
remember catching up with Samson Siasia at the airport last year with a friend
of mine, Colin Udoh and we posed that question of where Mikel will play at the
Eagles.
Siasia
told us that Mikel will play at the Eagles where he plays at his club.
According
to Siasia, “We do not want to confuse him. The same position he plays at his
club is what he will play here.”
But
on Mikel’s invitation under Siasia he was still played in attacking midfield.
The Stephen
Keshi question
Since
Keshi became coach of the team, he has played what looks like a 4-2-3-1 which
means you do not play the conventional Makalele type defensive midfielder or “Standing
4” rather two central midfielders which defensive and creative abilities.
In
one game he played what looked like a 4-2-4 but of course we know that team
shapes evolve as the game wears on.
In
that role he has tried Joel Obi, Dickson Etuhu, Obiora Nwankwo, Henry Uche  and Gabriel Rueben settling most times for the
duo of Obiora and Rueben.
In
attacking midfield he has tried Nosa Igiebor, Raheem Lawal as well as Victor
Moses. He has even tried Gabriel Rueben once in attacking midfield.
Will
Keshi recognize the fact that Mikel Obi is no longer Jay Jay Okocha’s
replacement but our best DM/CM or will he continue to live in fool’s paradise
by giving him the number 10 shirt and playing him in an offensive position?
Will
Keshi just join the bandwagon or do the right thing?
Nigeria
currently have a depth of riches in that position with the likes of Mikel Obi,
Joel Obi, Gabriel Rueben, Obiora Nwankwo and Dickson Etuhu and I think it is
right for Mikel Obi to fight for his place there than be made to play in an
attacking midfield position and be expected to do the nutmegs and shimmies like
Okocha would have done in his day.
I
have always believed in the coaching and managerial abilities of Stephen Keshi
so I will just watch whilst holding my breath to see how he plays his team
against Liberia.
Mikel
Obi is one of the best in the world. It will only be sensible if he is played
in that position the world rates him in.
If Mikel Obi will be used as a DM/CM surely he is/ will be one of our best, but if he’s going to be played as an attacker, then we really do not need him to spoil things for the team. 

Good
luck Super Eagles.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Stupid article. Has Mikel been bad for the Eagles when he plays as a 10? How many goals has he assisted in when he played further up the pitch???? Where are your stats? Did you do any research???? Come on man. Writer, YOU CAN DO BETTER!

  2. Anonymous, where did the article say he has been bad. Article simply said he should play for the Eagles where he plays for his club. As simple as that. What is annoying you sef?

  3. What a poor article . One would wonder what type of journalist Nigeria produces. You just spill out your thoughts without any single FACTS. This article reads like an emotional rant .

  4. So he has not been bad but we should go put him ina position where we have more than capable replacements? How daft is that?

  5. You put him in a position he is used to. The last time he played in AM regularly was probably when he was at Lyn Oslo pre-2006. It simply makes sense that he is played there. That is the point. And yes, he has been very average with the Eagles because he is being played out of position. Now you may not agree with that because opinions differ.

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