MIKEL: NEEDING TO ADAPT
John Mikel Obi made his first start of 2012 in last weekend's FA Cup fifth round tie against Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge, and the Nigerian midfielder spoke to the official Chelsea website, reaffirming his desire to force his way back into the Blues side and ensure a successful end to what has been an eventful season.
The 24-year-old had been a frustrated spectator since picking up a groin injury during our game against Tottenham at White Hart Lane on 22 December, before making his long-awaited return in the 1-1 draw against Chris Hughton's side, and he admits his time watching from the sidelines was anything but enjoyable.
'I'm not a very good watcher of football, normally after the first half-an-hour of a game I feel like I could go to sleep, I would much rather be involved,' he says. 'I genuinely don't enjoy watching, but obviously if it's a big game then I make sure I do.'
It's been a turbulent few months for Andre Villas-Boas's midfielders; Frank Lampard, Ramires and Oriol Romeu have all suffered with injury problems, while Michael Essien has not long been back in action following a lengthy lay-off.
But with all of those players aside from Romeu now fit and available for selection, the manager has a wealth of options to choose from in the middle of the park.
'It makes it difficult for me to just come back in and pick up from where I left off, all I can do is keep working hard and try to convince the manager that I should be playing,' said Mikel.
'It's up to the manager, I've been out for almost eight or nine weeks, which is a long time, so all I can do is get my head down and keep doing my best. It's hard because the players are all doing their best, they're doing everything they can to turn results around, they all want to win.'
In recent weeks Villas-Boas has, at times, moved away from his favoured 4-3-3 formation in order to adopt a 4-2-3-1 style, enabling Juan Mata to play a more central role while offering the defenders more protection by deploying two midfielders to play in front of them.
Since arriving at the club back in 2007, Mikel has grown accustomed to playing the lone holding role, but as he acknowledged by taking the bigger picture into account, a change in style collectively simply means individuals adapting their own game.
'It makes it more difficult and more interesting [changing formations], because when you are the only one in that position you know you can't really go anywhere, the role changes slightly but not massively,' he says.
'If you're playing alongside an experienced player then you should both know what to do. It changes the structure of the team, it changes the shape of the team, but then you have to be able to read the game and adapt.
'I like playing in both systems; since I've been at the club I've always played as the sitting midfielder with two players further forward, and that's obviously what I'm used to. Most of the responsibility to make sure the team keeps our shape is all down to me, so I have to think and act much quicker.'