It’s fair to say that nobody envisaged Victor Moses featuring in Antonio Conte’s plans, let alone as a wing-back in a 3-4-3 formation this season.
The Nigeria international had been a fringe player for Chelsea since his first season at the club which saw him garner a run of games in the English top-flight before falling out of favour with then-boss Jose Mourinho.
Moses’ first season at Chelsea was decent as he was handed enough starting berths to prove his worth to the team, but what followed that stellar term were unsuccessful loan spells at Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham.
Chelsea keenness at loaning him out affirmed his place down the pecking order, but the coming of Antonio Conte has evidently turned things around for him.
It all began with the loss against Arsenal
Conte opted to utilise a 3-4-3 system for the first time this season in the middle of a 3-0 loss against Arsenal on September 24. The Blues were 3-0 down at half-time, nothing seemed to be working for them, and Conte decided to change things up a bit in a bid to avoid conceding more goals.
They ended up losing the game, but that loss more or less paved the way for Chelsea to go on a rampage in the league and for Victor Moses to jump right into the fray.
With Conte intent on making use of a 3-4-3 formation, Moses was always the right option for a wing-back role at Chelsea. He’s similar in many ways to Juventus’ Stephan Lichtsteiner, although Moses’ defensive attributes were untested seeing as he had been deployed as a right winger for the entirety of his footballing career.
Lichtsteiner played under Conte from 2011 to 2014, within that time; he was lauded for his athleticism and quickness which earned him the nickname “The Swiss Express”.
What we’ve seen from Moses thus far is very similar to Lichtsteiner’s style of play. There were concerns about the Nigerian wideman being able to maintain his defensive duties, but his impressive work rate and pace have seen him do just fine in his new role.
Wing-backs are generally deeper wingers; they’re supposed to be able to stretch the opposition’s defence to create openings for the more central players, and at the same time, wing-backs need to be able to thwart incoming attacks.
Moses surprisingly has been doing both all-season long – he’s reinvented himself in that position, and all his potential seems to be coming to fruition.
Moses is an immensely talented footballer, but having to adjust to a new style of play and an arduous new position after having his future at Chelsea in doubt for so long just highlights his professionalism, a trait which tends be overlooked these days.
At the start of the season, he was made out to be somewhat of a squad filler in the first-team set-up, due in large part, to the fact that he had come into the squad as a replacement option rather than a first-choice player.
What His New Found Role Could Mean For the Super Eagles?
Nigeria is seemingly on the right track to securing qualification into the 2018 edition of the World Cup.
Instead of sulking about the team’s absence from the African Cup of Nations, Gernot Rohr has done an excellent job of galvanising the squad and leading them to two back to back wins against the Chipolopolo and Algeria’s Fennec Foxes.
The win against Algeria highlighted Moses’ importance to the Super Eagles. The attacking trio of Ihenacho, Moses and Iwobi looked cohesive throughout the game but Moses was the pick of players as he put up an excellent display capped by a brace.
His new role at Chelsea has seemingly instilled a sense of responsibility in his play, which of course, will be perfect for the Super Eagles going forward.
His blend of a defensive and a similarly attacking mentality will do the Eagles a whole lot of good.
He’d prove to be an additional asset both defensive and attacking wise. Although, Moses plays a more attacking role while on international duty; his defensive traits are sure to see him track back more often than not which will, in turn, make Nigeria’s defensive set-up harder to break down.
Moses has evidently grown as a footballer over the course of the last six months, and his career can only go uphill from here, he could very well be the difference between success and failure for the Eagles.