John Mikel Obi, who has featured in all but one of the games since the start of last month, speaks about a happy squad and maintaining a winning mentality…
The heavy rain that soaked the morning’s extensive training had given way to emerging sun by the time John Mikel Obi sat down on a wall adjacent to the car park at Cobham before heading home.
Working in bad weather at this time is nothing new for the Chelsea squad but what is rare in the context of this season is training with no midweek fixture. It means the chance for detailed team play to be worked upon without the need for any recovery from a game just completed.
As he stops to talk to the official Chelsea website about this, Mikel is also ideally placed to judge the strength of the current challenge for honours. Being part of a squad at the turn of the year still in contention for multiple trophies is not unusual for him.
This is the 27-year-old’s ninth season at the club and in over half of the previous eight campaigns the team has ended up holding silverware. On three occasions they have won more than one trophy.
‘We are looking good,’ he reports.
‘This is the time when you have to play for everything. You start looking towards trophies and you want to win every one. Every year I have been here, from the start of the season we aspire to win every trophy and there is no favouritism about which ones.
‘This season hasn’t been any different. The way we have been playing we have a chance of winning some but like the players always say, and like the manager always says, we take every game one at a time and that is what we have done this season.
‘We have to keep going and there are going to be more and more difficult games. The loss against Spurs was a blip and we have won in the FA Cup since. Hopefully we are back to winning ways and we can carry on from that.
‘We are playing very well, we are in a good place, the players are happy, the manager is happy with the team and everyone is in good spirits. We all want to achieve a very good season, we all want to win trophies so hopefully we can do that.’
Mikel goes on to explain it is that collective target, the chance to be part of considerable achievement come May, which keeps the whole squad highly motivated and ready for whenever anyone is called into action, adding:
‘The players who have just come in, they have all realised what it is about, how important it is for this club to always win trophies because it has been in our DNA, it has been in our spirit to always win.
‘They quickly realised it and it is something the manager has done a very good job of always installing into the players, to have that winning mentality. If you look at the players and the way they play, the way they think – they think as winners and that is very important.
‘It is something me, Didi, JT, all the older players who have been here a long time also try to make them know. They have all bought into that idea and that mentality of champions, of trying to win.’
Mikel has been involved in nine of the 10 games since the start of December, starting seven of them, and on more than one occasion Jose Mourinho has talked highly of the player and how he can rely upon him when needed.
Before the pre-Christmas win at Stoke the manager said: ‘The first time Mikel played [from the start in the Premier League this season] was Newcastle and he was our best player.
‘How can he be our best player if he didn’t play in three months? Because he was working every day at the top level. Sad, frustrated, not happy? Maybe. But professional – that’s what I expect from the players.’
Mikel considers Mourinho’s praise.
‘I have always said in my nine years here that I am a team player,’ says the Nigerian.
‘I am not one who wants to take glory just for myself, I’ve gone out of my way to do things whereby I have limited my game but for the good of the team, for the team to succeed.
‘I will keep doing that as long as I am here. My joy and my happiness is to come away week in and week out knowing that we have won a game. I will always continue to do that and my job is to make sure I keep the balance of the team. Every week that I manage to do it I am very proud of myself.
‘Sometimes in football you try your best and it doesn’t work out but I’ll keep trying, I’ll keep doing my best and if the team keeps winning I am very happy.’