Name me one Victor Moses moment from the three or four seasons before 2016/17. Go on, I’ll give you a moment. He scored on his Liverpool debut, sure, but he anonymously warmed the Anfield bench as well as turning up in Stoke and West Ham shirts without too much fanfare.
So, the shocked reaction of the world as the Nigeria international established himself as a key piece of Chelsea’s title winning side was entirely fitting. But, in truth, it really shouldn’t be. Victor Moses was caught up in the perfect storm.
The appointment of Antonio Conte was another expensive one for Chelsea and with good reason. This was a man that was the catalyst for the resurgence of Juventus as a top tier side and the same man that took a pretty average Italian squad to the quarters of the European Championship.
This was a man with a consistent record of success over the last five years with clear convictions and ideas. His three at the back system provided defensive stability and attacking intent while, crucially, he got the most out of the sum of the parts given to him and that he himself purchased.
And that is where Moses fits in. With Conte, he always had the chance that an opportunity would be presented to him. He had always been a player that had some ability but was lacking that clinical end product as a winger. He worked hard though and that was always going to stand him in good stead.
Conte is renowned for his ethos – work. It’s why his Juventus star had some stars (Pirlo, Buffon, Bonucci etc.) but was mostly made up of decent to good players that were willing to work themselves into the ground for him and deliver exactly what he wanted. It’s why the likes of Serbian winger Milos Krasic never really worked out under Conte.
There was one face that Conte loved to turn to more than anyone though, Emanuele Giaccherini. Giaccherini is not a flashy player nor one that is going to sell billions upon billions of pounds worth of merchandise. What he is, is a hard-working versatile player that will follow instructions to the letter. He’s dependable, reliable and can produce an end product if he needs to. Those qualities are what makes him one of Conte’s favourites; why he played regularly for Juve in Conte’s first two seasons and why he was a regular starter at Euro 2016 in spite of media questions as to how someone with so little playing time could be so important to the national team.
There was very little surprise when, once Conte took over at Stamford Bridge, one of the first names linked with a move to Chelsea was Giaccherini. It was an obvious fit with his time at Sunderland clearly over and the Black Cats looking to ship him out on a cut price deal. However, Giaccherini went back to Italy after it became clear Sunderland weren’t going to sell to Chelsea as cheap as they were for Serie A sides hence the Italian’s switch to Napoli.
That wasn’t a huge issue for Conte though. The early season form of Chelsea was of bigger concern to their new boss. He had opted for a back four with the players he had at this disposal and the results were decidedly not great. The reasoning behind this was potentially because he didn’t feel he had the players at his disposal to pull off the back three. The issue became more apparent at right wing back where Cesar Azpilicueta was solid at the back but not necessarily the greatest going forward while the ageing Branislav Ivanovic needed as much protection as humanly possible in front of him. Pedro could have been an option but he likes to move inside and play close to the striker leaving Chelsea far too narrow and with no out ball. That meant that Chelsea needed someone that worked hard, wanted to stay as close to the touchline as possible and could deliver. Enter Victor Moses.
His ’debut’ at wing back saw him claim Man of the Match against Hull and his form never really dropped off. Like Giaccherini, Moses is a player of decent ability that works hard and, like Giaccherini, Victor Moses is a player that, given a defined role in a system, can pull out a 7/10 performance every time.
So, should we really have been surprised that Victor Moses would get his chance this season? No. The surprise was that it was at wing back more than anything else but that is part of Conte’s brilliance. Who else would have tried that?