Few things are strange in the quirky world of football but the complete turn-around which the career of Chelsea Football Club’s Victor Moses has witnessed in the current season is a small miracle, anyway you choose to look at it.
From being deemed surplus to requirement at Stamford Bridge and tossed around a posse of clubs – actually three Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham in the last three seasons – he was practically on his way out of the club and last summer’s pre-season’s training camp was supposed to be a prelude to his final denouement as a Chelsea player but new Blues’ boss Antonio Conte opted to throw him a lifeline which the Nigerian grabbed with both hands.
Since the start of the season, Moses has re-invented his game in a new formation introduced by Conte and he’s become one of the best players not only in Chelsea but in the entire league. He’s not limited this form to club, he’s been dazzling for his country too.
Moses had been the subject of dark murmurings of discontent after he missed Nigeria’s opening group game in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying game away to Zambia last October. The team won 2-1 in his absence and many were of the opinion that he should be shut out of the team’s next game – a tricky tie against one of Africa’s strongest side, Algeria – but manager Gernot Rohr decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
At the end of the game played at the impressive Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, Moses scored two of Nigeria’s goal and was easily the best player on the pitch by a mile.
His two goals were also symbolic. The first one, after 25 minutes, helped settle Nigeria into the game and offered a glimmer of hope that the Eagles can go all the way.
The second, perhaps more tellingly, came in time added at a time the Algerians were pushing hard for an equalizer. Moses ‘effort killed off any hope of the Fennecs leaving Uyo with a fraction of a point.
As we have seen him do over and over for Chelsea this season, Moses simply exchanged the club’s blue shirt for the country’s green and continued his blazing form.
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While pundits credit Conte for the amazing turn-around in his game, Moses insists he’s always worked hard in training but had never gotten the game time required to show what he’s capable of doing with the ball at his feet.
This, he admitted, Conte has given him. His predecessor, Jose Mourinho didn’t. in his two seasons with the club, he farmed out the former Wigan star first to Stoke and then to West Ham.
He said: “The toughest time was always in pre-season, when you know that you’ve done well and the manager has never spoken to you. And then someone comes up to you and says you’re not in his plan and you’ve got to go on loan.
“When you go on loan it’s totally different because it’s not your club. You’re going there to do your best but sometimes you get injured and coming back into the team is always difficult. I felt a little bit frustrated to be honest when going out on loan but I needed to keep on working hard, keep my head down and play my football.”
All that changed when Conte came and questioned how Moses was overlooked at Chelsea for so long after seeing him develop into a key member of his table-topping side.
The change of formation might have given Moses his chance, but it was earlier, in pre-season, that he began to believe that, with a new manager in place, this might be his breakthrough year in west London.
He recalls: “[Conte] came up to me and said, ‘You know what, I like your football. I don’t want you to go out on loan this year’. That gave me a big boost. I thought, ‘It’s good to have a manager like this, speaking to players, I’ve never really had it before at Chelsea’.”
Moses never looked back and his now an integral part of the team that’s increasingly looking like winning Chelsea’s second Premier League title in three years.
“It’s kind of fun,” says Moses, agreeing he’s now in the form of his life. “I get a lot of ball and I get to go one-on-one against full-backs. My first option is always to be offensive but at the same time, I’ve got to do my defensive work which hopefully I’m getting good at.”
His form has also attracted a fair share of perennial transfer speculations with media reports linking him with a big-money move to Spanish giants Barcelona. Admittedly the Catalans are yet to make a formal bid but the rumoured interest is enough testament to how dizzying the last five months have been for Moses.
This current situation is a huge turnaround for a player who, partly because of injury, started only 38 league games in the past three seasons, completing 90 minutes just 12 times. This is the stuff dreams are made of and Chelsea faithful as well as Nigerian fans will pray this form continues for a long time.
“Victor is playing very well, he’s on fire and performing well in every game. In the last few matches he’s been our best player and it’s a pleasure for me to play with him on the right-hand side. He’s very compact, really strong and he has a lot of skill, he’s a complete player.” – Pedro, Chelsea teammate
“I could see his potential from the first days of the summer training camp. Moses has important qualities: technique, physical strength, the ability to cover seventy meters of the pitch. I find it incredible that someone like him has been underestimated.” – Antonio Conte, Chelsea manager
“I’m not surprised by Moses’s form. He never had a big chance like this before. He never really had this chance to show off. A big player has to have the chance to play. It is difficult to show your skills when you don’t play, and this season he has shown the quality that you need at this level; I am not surprised. He is a fast and technical player with great stamina to go forward and then to come back. He will have a great season in a blue shirt.” – Salomon Kalou, former Chelsea striker
“It’s as though the same players who downed tools under ex-manager Jose Mourinho’s leadership are the same ones who appear to be sticking two fingers up to him now. One of those players is Victor Moses, who the Portuguese totally disregarded during his second spell at the club and who is playing out of his skin at the moment.” – Garth Crooks, BBC television pundit
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