"He's not an offensive midfielder, I'll play Ndidi over him" - Is Sunday Oliseh right about Mikel Obi?

Ex-Super Eagles captain and coach Sunday Oliseh made some controversial comments about his fellow Nigerian legend John Obi Mikel.

Sunday Oliseh prefers Ndidi to Mikel

"He's a player who's done some good with Chelsea. But when you talk about playing as an offensive midfielder, he's not an offensive midfielder," Oliseh said on the ATHLST Podcast.

“As regards as a defensive midfielder, I think he's useful, but I won't play him. I'll play Ndidi because a defensive midfielder's work is you have to win balls without making fouls, you have to be very good in aerial balls, you have to have some control by helping others,” Oliseh continued.

For someone who was a midfielder in his playing days and also coached Mikel in the national team, Oliseh is an authority on this topic, so his comments, however controversial, deserve to be analysed objectively.

As crazy as his point of view seems at face value, Oliseh’s assertion about Mikel Obi’s position is actually spot on, the ex-Chelsea man was not and still is not an attacking midfielder.

For whatever reason, football-loving Nigerians have an unrealistic (damn near delusional) idea of what Mikel’s career could have been without Jose Mourinho.

Apparently, Mikel was basically Zinedine Zidane before he joined Chelsea and was deployed in a deeper role which made him lose all offensive ability…at least that is how most people see it.

Oliseh’s comment on Mikel’s true position was correct because it debunks that myth that has carried on for way too long, he is not an offensive midfielder.

“Offensive midfielders have certain qualities and he doesn’t have any of them” was Oliseh’s justification for the comment on Mikel’s position which is right but also not entirely.

Even in the statement where he was right, Oliseh still manages to be wrong. He said Mikel doesn’t have any offensive qualities which is wildly inaccurate as the Chelsea cult hero was a good passer in his prime and could also move with the ball at a decent pace.

But beyond that, Oliseh was wrong about Mikel’s quality as a defensive midfielder and his preference for Ndidi is sacrilegious, to say the least.

As good as Wilfred Ndidi is right now, he’s not quite Mikel Obi’s level yet, there is a reason the ex-Super Eagles captain played at Chelsea for a decade.

From Oliseh’s description of his ideal defensive midfielder, the 47-year-old manager clearly prefers a ball winner to a deep-lying playmaker or a regista and he probably should have just said that instead of calling names.

Sunday Oliseh’s reputation over the years has degenerated from a highly respected ex-international to an estranged ex-coach and it is mainly down to statements like this.

To say “I won’t play him” about John Obi Mikel is reckless for any Nigerian but even more for Oliseh as someone who actually played a similar position and should know better than the layman.

The statement becomes more ridiculous upon the realisation that Oliseh actually did play Mikel three times as Super Eagles head coach.

It is unclear if Oliseh’s statements were fueled by personal issues with Mikel but he could benefit from more objectivity in making further declarations in future, and he most certainly will.

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