Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi seems to be desperate to erase the major blemish in his profile. In the past few weeks, Mikel has demonstrated the desire to score, joining the attack severally especially during set pieces.
In 251 appearances for Chelsea since 2006, Mikel has only scored twice and in fact, the two goals were scored in the FA Cup in his first year at the club.
Since playing his first match for the Super Eagles in a friendly match against Libya in 2005, Mikel has only scored three times.
The first was against Zimbabwe in the 2006 Nations Cup, the second followed two years later against Benin Republic in the 2008 edition while the final one did not come until four years after, a penalty that contributed to the 6-1 defeat of toothless Liberia in the final 2013 Nations Cup qualifier last month.
In the Chelsea team, Mikel is the only midfielder that has no goal to his credit in the past five years. In fact, most defenders in the team have scored goals. Defender Branislav Ivanovic joined the club in 2008 and already, he has scored 11 goals. The season, the Serbian has netted three goals in the Premier League.
Since joining the club in 2006, left back Ashley Cole has scored seven league goals, one of them recorded this season. Brazilian defender David Luiz has spent just two years at the club and already, he has score four times.
Central defender Gary Cahill joined the club last season and he quickly made his influence felt by coming to the club’s rescue many times by scoring decisive goals. He has seven goals already and has netted five this season.
23-year-old defender Ryan Bertrand, who signed a new deal with the club in September scored against Manchester City in the Community Shield and added another in the League Cup.
Captain John Terry returned from suspension on Sunday and scored against Liverpool just before he was injured and pulled out. The goal was his 50th strike for the club he joined in 1995.
The inability of Obi to score in six years may not be a great sin because he is solely used in the defensive role but with the statistic showing that more than 95 per cent of Chelsea player have goals to their credit, there is a psychological imbalance on the part of the Nigerian.
Perhaps Chelsea’s style of play and the template Mikel met when Jose Mourinho was the club coach are responsible for the player’s lack of desire for strikes.
Specific players are handed strict instruction on the role to play in the team and for so many years, successive Chelsea coaches have used Mikel as the major shield between the defence and the midfield. His ability to mark effectively is a feature Chelsea have exploited positively but it also cut him off the position to make a daring move to score goals.
Mikel did not start football as a defensive midfielder. Under coach Samson Siasia in 2005, Mikel was the Flying Eagles anchor. He decided how the attack is launched and wields so much influence in the team. But after joining Chelsea under Mourinho, his appearance was limited to the defence border line, and while the likes of Terry and Luiz regularly join the attack in the post-Mourinho era, Mikel prefers to play according to the rule.
But aside the instruction, Mikel has not demonstrated the skill to take on opposing players and the technical expertise to pick up loose balls. His shot at goal is particularly low and his confidence on the ball seems to wane as soon as he has it because he releases it so quickly.
But the desperation he has shown lately is evidence that Mikel is anxiously looking for goals. Againt Shaktar Donetsk in the Champions League, he scored a header which was disallowed as Chelsea came from behind to win 3-2.
During the disappointing 1-1 with Liverpool two weeks ago, he was unlucky not to score as he gradually free himself for the stationary defensive position. His presence in the box has increased and it may not be long for him to be celebrated rather than joining the celebration all the time. Maybe the coming of new coach Rafael Benitez will give Mikel the opportunity he needs to join the attack more often.