Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink has hailed John Obi Mikel as his "ideal player" needed to address the imbalance he sees in the current Blues midfield.
Mikel, 28, has become accustomed to a role on the fringes of the Chelsea squad but was a surprise starter in the 3-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday (3 January).
Replacing Nemanja Matic alongside Cesc Fabregas in the heart of midfield, the Nigeria international produced an impressive performance shielding the Blues backline as the club won just their second game away from home all season.
Since Hiddink's appointment as Jose Mourinho's replacement in west London in December, Mikel's role in the first-team has steadily grown in each of his four appearances under the Dutchman.
"He played very well as he also did in the previous games," Hiddink said of Mikel, ESPN report. "He's the ideal player in my option to bring balance to the team.
"If the team is not willing to defend well or have the right balance then you concede a lot of goals. I thought John Obi can be one of the key figures in getting the balance back. On top of that the talented players can then explore their qualities.
"He can recover the radar. He knows the game very well. He knows where the strength of the opponent is and he knows exactly how to cope with that. He has a very good eye, a very good nose, and a very good sense of where to recover."
Mikel's game-time in all competitions this season amounted to just 271 minutes in all competitions prior to Hiddink's arrival. The manager's glowing review of his "elegant" performance at Selhurst Park suggests he will have plenty more to look forward to this season.
"He doesn't do it in a very brutal way – he's very, very elegant. What I like to see very much is not just a quality player but a player who can defend so smoothly. It's beautiful to see. He doesn't lose many balls, he's good in short passing. I don't expect and I don't ask him to make the decisive final pass. He can, but no, we let the other players do that."