Ahead of Chelsea’s bout with Manchester United on Sunday, Goal examine the Nigeria forward’s revival.
You never could have imagined it even a month ago, but when Manchester United take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Jose Mourinho will have to coach his team on a way to contain in-form wing-back Victor Moses.
The Portuguese coach so consistently overlooked the Nigeria international during their mutual time in West London, but with the 25-year-old Moses now performing like a player reborn under Antonio Conte, he looks primed to cause his former boss some headaches when Mou returns to his former club on Sunday.
Last weekend, Moses found the net—his second of the season—as Chelsea put reigning champions Leicester City to the sword.
Moses was a harrying, hassling and inventive presence throughout, and wrapped up the victory with a goal befitting of his performance.
But how has the Super Eagle turned things around this season?
Moses’s early rise to prominence in the Premier League has often been credited to former Wigan boss Roberto Martinez, and remembering the Latics’ approach under Martinez, it perhaps shouldn’t come as such as surprise that he’s flourishing in Conte’s set-up.
“(Marcos) Alonso always played this role, but Moses is a winger. His education is fantastic. I’m pleased for him,” Conte said recently, indirectly tipping his hat to Martinez.
The Spaniard often used a 3-4-3 formation, with Moses featuring as one of three forwards.
The tactic demands a holistic approach, and constant interaction with Jean Beausejour and Emmerson Boyce surely helped the Nigerian learn how to fit into the setup in a different capacity all these years later.
Conte’s typical wing-backs—both with Juventus and Italy—have all had distinctive but contrasting features; they have all offered both explosive acceleration and admirable composure.
Take, for example, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Christian Maggio, Mattia De Sciglio, Ignazio Abate and even Kwadwo Asamoah.
These adventurous talents come in contrast to Chelsea’s first-choice full-backs in recent matches—Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic—and while the summer acquisition of Marcos Alonso solves the problem on the left, it’s intriguing that Conte agreed to allow Abdul Rahman Baba out on loan to Schalke 04.
“When I arrived at Chelsea I told them I wanted to see Victor in pre-season because I knew him very well and I knew his great potential,” Conte told journalists.
Could it be that, as well as Moses playing to the system’s strengths, the 3-4-3 also brings the best out in the Nigeria forward?
In this formation, there’s no room for the kind of over-exuberance and carelessness in possession that has sometimes characterised Moses’s showings. He knows that if he’s going to make it work at Chelsea—after so many loan moves and frustrations—he has to become ultra efficient, keep his work rate high and learn to help preserve the team’s shape.
“He played well as a winger when we were playing with a 4-2-4,” Conte added. “He’s a very good player, now he’s playing as a wing-back and it’s fantastic because he pays great attention in defence and can go one against one in attack.”
Few expected that Moses would be one of the main winners when Conte arrived at Stamford Bridge, but a combination of the Nigerian’s unique skillset and the Italian’s idiosyncratic tactical approach are helping both men achieve success in West London.
Can Moses prove to Mourinho just what he’s missing out on when he goes face to face with his former boss on Sunday?