MIKEL: EARLY DAYS

Posted on: Fri 30 Mar 2012

John Mikel Obi is hoping we can keep the pressure on at the top of the table this afternoon with an improved defensive display.

We have kept just one clean sheet in 10 Barclays Premier League matches, including last weekend's victory over Swansea at Stamford Bridge, which saw us concede a late consolation when Ashley Williams headed home a crossed free-kick, the latest in a line of set-piece goals we have shipped, incorrect offside decisions not helping with that.

The midfielder knows things must improve defensively if good attacking work is not to be undone, and explained the side is pursuing a zonal system of defending, where each player takes responsibility for an area rather than marking a member of the opposition.

'We talked about it at Cobham, but it is early days to change whatever we have started,' said the 24-year-old. 'We need to stick with it and work at it, the manager knows what is best and wants the best.

'Whatever decision he takes we have to go with it. Hopefully we can get better with it, we never did the zonal marking so much before, but that's what he wants to do and we need to work on it.'

At the other end, Mikel has been seen getting into the opposition area for Chelsea corners as he attempts to use height to his advantage, a new role for a man usually used to plug defensive holes.

'That's the role that manager wants me to play, to get in the box for set-pieces, and maybe that's one way that I will get my goal,' he explained, referring to the drought that has seen him without a goal to his name since early 2007. 'Hopefully if I keep getting to balls in the box then I will, I might, nick a goal or two before the end of the season.'

A goal at the Reebok Stadium this afternoon would be welcomed, but Mikel's main responsibility, if selected, will always be to provide cover for the defence as we seek to close the gap to leaders Manchester United.

'The season has only just started, we've had six league games,' he said. 'It is still early days, we want to just keep doing what we are doing, winning our games and being there or thereabouts. United and City will slip up at some point, United drew at Stoke last week and there are tough games for everyone to come. We need to be ready to slip ahead when other teams are dropping points.'