Like a fine bottle of wine slowly aging in a cellar, waiting for its owner to uncork it and taste it's fine grapes, summer transfer signee Victor Moses sits quietly on the Chelsea bench, waiting for his chance to shine.
Bought from Wigan Athletic in a £10 million deal, the Nigerian midfielder has seen very little playing time so far for the Blues at Stamford Bridge as fellow recent acquisitions Eden Hazard and Oscar have quickly assimilated themselves into the club’s new, flashy, advanced midfield alongside Juan Mata.
With striker Fernando Torres still struggling somewhat in the payoff position in manager Roberto Di Matteo’s 4-2-3-1 tactical formation, Moses could possibly serve the team as a viable option to El Niño as a prolific goal scorer if just given the chance.
Against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup, the 21-year-old Moses started his first match for the Blues and played admirably being named the Man of the Match as the home side rallied for a come-from-behind, 5-4 extra-time win to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament where they will meet Leeds United on December 19.
Moses—who bears a striking resemblance with his body-type and dreadlocks and possesses a similar offensive panache to Chelsea legend Didier Drogba—showed off some of his potential Wednesday against Shakhtar Donetsk after coming in as a late substitute for Torres at the 80-minute mark.
Four minutes into injury time and on the last play of the match, Moses connected on a brilliant header off a Juan Mata corner—reminiscent of Drogba's header against Bayern Munich that helped qualify the Blues for this tournament—to give the Blues a thrilling 3-2 win over the Miners at Stamford Bridge in group stage play in the UEFA Champions League.
Despite scoring in his only two starts so far for Chelsea—his first Blues’ goal came against Wolves in its third round Capital One Cup game while he picked up his first English Premiere League goal last weekend in a 1-1 draw at Swansea City—it’s fairly safe to say Wednesday’s goal will be the one that puts him on the football map in west London.
Born in Nigeria, Moses moved to England at the age of 13 and played as a member of England’s under-16, under-17, under-18, under-19 and under-21 teams. While attending Stanley Technical High, scouts from nearby Crystal Palace saw him playing in the local Tandridge League and were so impressed they offered him a place in the Eagles’ academy.
Moses was recommended by Crystal Palace to the fee-paying Whitgift School in Croydon where he garnered much attention after scoring 50 goals for Palace’s under-14 squad and helped Whitgift win a number of School Cups including the National Cup where he scored all five goals against Healing School of Grimsby in the final at Walkers Stadium.
Moses made his Championship debut in November of 2007, and after a couple of years of fairly average play, a five-goal run in eight games in 2009-10 helped him catch the eye of Wigan Athletic, who signed the youngster for £2.5 million on the last day of the January transfer window as Palace went into administration.
In the EPL at Wigan, Moses struggled to crack the Latics starting XI but finally did so last season following the departure of Charles N’Zogbia. With Wigan, Moses scored a somewhat-lackluster eight goals in 73 appearances.
After four previous unsuccessful bids, Wigan finally accepted Chelsea’s fifth bid (£10 million) for Moses on August 23, 2012 and the winger/second striker became the European champions last new signee in an extremely active summer transfer market which also saw the Blues land Marko Marin, Hazard, Oscar and César Azpilicueta.
And at a more-than-reasonable £10 million, Moses could turn out to be quite the deal.
Where does Moses best fit into Chelsea's scheme of things on offense?
Manager Di Matteo knows he has something special in Moses but knows he is still very, very young. Di Matteo said in a recent interview,
He’s young and he’ll still improve and develop but he’s an exciting player that I tried very hard to sign, not just this year but previously as well, years ago. He’s a player I like very much and he will have a big influence in our season.
He’s strong at holding the ball, his dribbling ability is very good, he can go past defenders, which not many can, and he’s got the pace as well. He’s very good at making runs in behind, he’s a very good player.
And with the Mata-Hazard-Oscar line likely evolving into a terrific starting triumvirate for the future in Chelsea’s new-look, tiki-taka, ball-control offense, and guys like Marin, Daniel Sturridge and Lucas Piazón also fighting for first-team playing time, trying to find a way to work Moses into the lineup is as much of a challenge for Di Matteo as anything.
But once the kid scores a couple of goals in meaningful EPL or Champions League contests—as he showed he could do with his beauty against Shakhtar that propelled his Blues to the top of Group E—keeping Moses out of the rotation will seem a lot like leaving Jimi Hendrix out of the lineup at Woodstock.
So, with a glut of young talent in the attacking midfield, the perceived commitment to Torres at the lone striker position—as well as rumors of a run at Radamel Falcao—and talents like Sturridge, Piazón and West Bromwich Albion-loanee Romelu Lukaku also waiting their turn, who knows where and when Moses will finally get his opportunity to strut his stuff and get some starts for Chelsea.
But be forewarned: Once he does get his minutes and goals for the Blues it will then become harder to let him wallow on Chelsea’s multi-million bench and easier to sell off some other players who may never live up to their hype at the Bridge.
When that cork on the versatile Moses—who can play both as a winger and a striker—is finally popped and he gets used to his role on the club and his teammates get used to him, expect the taste of that wine to be so fine that many of the Chelsea faithful will start to forget how hard it was to lose a star of Drogba’s caliber.
And let’s just hope that bottle of wine doesn’t go bad or be forgotten on the shelf—a prospect much less likely after Wednesday’s brilliant game-winning header.
It’s simple. The sooner Moses starts playing more for the Blues, the better.
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