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Victor Moses becomes an unlikely star in Antonio Conte's Chelsea
Last Updated: 03/12/16 7:59am
Victor Moses was a Premier League nomad who hadn't played for Chelsea in three years. Now he's a key player attracting interest from Barcelona. Ahead of Saturday's clash with Manchester City, Nick Wright examines his extraordinary transformation under Antonio Conte…
There were plenty of questions for Antonio Conte when he arrived at Chelsea. Was there a place in his plans for John Terry? Could he revive Eden Hazard? And what of the disillusioned Diego Costa? The new head coach had big issues to address, but there was little interest in what might be next for Victor Moses.
Chelsea plan Moses talks
Chelsea plan to enter contract talks with Victor Moses, according to Sky sources.
The Nigeria international had become a forgotten man at Chelsea since his £9m arrival from Wigan in 2012. His first season at Stamford Bridge yielded 10 goals in 43 appearances, but Jose Mourinho took a different view to his predecessors Roberto Di Matteo and Rafael Benitez. For Moses, his appointment changed everything.
The next three years were spent on loan at Liverpool, Stoke City and West Ham. It was an unsettling period by anyone's standards, and there was little evidence in his most recent spell away from Stamford Bridge to suggest his fortunes were about to change. In fact, the Hammers had just passed up the opportunity to make his move permanent.
It seemed his Chelsea career was heading in the same direction, but Conte decided otherwise. Moses impressed in pre-season and made his first competitive appearance for the club since May 2013 when he came off the bench against West Ham in August. In the last few months, the winger has been reinvented as a wing-back on the right of Conte's 3-4-3 formation.
It has been a triumph. Moses has been practically ever-present in the seven-game winning streak which has propelled Chelsea to the top of the table, and behind Costa and Hazard, he has arguably been their most important player. His winner against Tottenham was his third goal of the campaign, and Conte is baffled as to why he was overlooked for so long.
"I recognised his potential right from day one of pre-season," he said last week. "Moses has great quality, technique, physical strength and the ability to cover 70 metres of the pitch. I find it incredible that somebody like him could have been underrated."
Those qualities were evident for his goal against Spurs. Moses covered almost the length of the pitch to meet Diego Costa's cut-back, ghosting into the box and hitting a first-time shot that had too much power for a combination of Hugo Lloris and Jan Vertonghen on the goal-line. It was the highlight of a man-of-the-match display.
Moses burst onto the scene as a powerful, unpredictable attacker in his younger days at Crystal Palace and Wigan, and his offensive prowess has become a major weapon in his new role at Chelsea. Moses looked dangerous every time he carried the ball forward against Spurs. His directness has been similarly effective in each of his Premier League starts.
Chelsea's top dribblers
|Rank||Player||Successful dribbles per 90 mins|
Moses ranks third for successful dribbles at Chelsea behind Hazard and Willian this season, and he is also averaging over two shots per 90 minutes. It's not bad for a wing-back, and, with most of Chelsea's attacking play directed down the flanks, it's exactly what Conte's system demands. Only Costa and Hazard have taken more touches in the opposition box.
Most touches in opposition box
|Rank||Player||Touches in opposition box|
But considering he had no experience of the position as recently as two months ago, Moses' defensive contribution is even more impressive than his attacking influence. The 25-year-old has already learned to strike the right balance. He tracks back diligently when Chelsea are under pressure, and his disciplined positioning has helped them keep six clean sheets in their last seven games.
Chelsea look a different side from last season, and Moses' emergence is perhaps the best exponent of Conte's transformative impact at Stamford Bridge. The Italian's animated demeanour on the touchline may not be to everybody's liking, but his hands-on coaching style has benefited Moses immeasurably.
"I have just got to listen to what the manager asks me to do in that position, and the way he wants me to do it," he said last month. "Defensively, we all work as a unit in training. Every day the manager is on top of us to make sure we are solid. He's also very helpful on the touchline. He talks to you to make sure you're in the right position."
Moses receives additional advice from Cesar Azpilicueta and N'Golo Kante on the pitch, but it's Conte who has infused him with confidence. It's Conte who has encouraged him to express himself. And it's Conte who has struck upon a system that suits him so well.
It's little wonder Moses is in line for a new contract. He was a Premier League nomad with an uncertain future when Conte took over, but he goes into Chelsea's biggest game of the season as a fundamental member of the team. if his recent trajectory is anything to go by, he will rise to the occasion again.