The news from Goal.com that Victor Moses will most likely be absent from Nigeria’s crucial summer of competition was met with a collective groan among Super Eagles fans.
Despite only making his international debut last year, the Chelsea forward has emerged as one of Naija’s key players. He is perhaps the only man truly capable of making a difference in a split second or turning the momentum of a match in his side’s favour.
For a summer that will involve a friendly against Mexico, tricky World Cup qualifiers against Kenya and Namibia and the Confederations Cup—an invaluable chance to test the squad in competitive games against top international sides—Moses’ absence is a veritable disaster for coach Stephen Keshi and his squad.
But how has Moses become so pivotal? How has this young man gone from Wigan and the England U21s to Chelsea and West African demi-deity?
In this article, I wish to explore some of the key attributes and qualities that have so propelled the young Nigerian over the last 12 months. Some of which may be obvious, some a little more subtle, but all of which have contributed to Moses being one of Africa’s finest talents as we head into the summer.
Initially, I have been struck this year by Moses’ propensity for influencing the big games.
It is one thing for a youngster to make an enormous impact in dead rubbers or one-sided contests, but another thing completely for a 22-year-old to influence some of the season’s most important contests.
Yet, this term, that’s exactly what Moses has done—really bringing his A-game to some of the season’s most important fixtures.
In both legs against Basel in the Europa League semifinal, Moses was on fire, finding the net in both London and Switzerland. It was a similar story against Rubin Kazan, where the Nigerian scored home and away.
I would argue that his two most impressive performances came in ultimately redundant victories against Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester United in the Champions League and Capital One Cup, respectively.
While both competitions were ultimately disappointments for Chelsea, Moses managed to score a remarkable late winner in a 3-2 victory against the Ukrainian side and delivered a Man of the Match display in Chelsea’s 5-4 extra-time demolition of United.
I believe that, in many of these fixtures, he has demonstrated not only an aptitude to thrive in the big occasion and influence the highest stage of competition, but also an increased maturity and a greater desire to involve himself in the creative aspect of play.
For a player once criticised for being too blinkered in his runs, too slow to pass or too flawed in his decision-making, Moses has developed terrifically.
Nigeria’s run to the Africa Cup of Nations final arguably proved to be the zenith of his career to date and the ultimate expression of his prodigal abilities.
Against Ethiopia in the group stage, with the Super Eagles looking leggy and uninspired, Moses took the initiative. Twice he turned on his ferocious pace and devastating dribbling ability, bursting into the Black Lions’ box only to be brought down—twice he converted the resulting penalties.
Nigeria were through and their confidence was renewed.
Moses’ influence continued into the knockout stages. He was assured against the Ivory Coast before really turning on the class in Naija’s semifinal against Mali.
This was a performance that, at times, became mesmeric. Moses dropped deep, made space, drew defenders and played creator, setting up the likes of Emmanuel Emenike and Ideye Brown as the Eagles of Mali were spanked 4-1.
This architectural performance would perhaps be slightly out of place at Chelsea. Here, with the club’s surfeit of artists, Moses comes into his own as the electric output for the side.
His direct style and searing pace are complementary to the guile and vision of the Three Amigos in Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar. I can only see Moses’ stock rising as the forward manages to enjoy greater synergy with those behind him moving forward.
Electric pace can cover a multitude of sins and, regardless of the quality of the possessor, will regularly instill fear and caution into an opposing defence. Ally this speed to Moses’ technical prowess and burgeoning awareness of the game, and we could well be looking at a talent that could ascend to the very top of the sport.
One area of improvement does need to be addressed is his league form. One goal and one assist in 24 Premier League appearances this term is not good enough, and even though 11 of those have come from the bench, more is required if Moses is to realise his untapped potential.
I imagine that Jose Mourinho, were he to arrive this summer as Chelsea’s new boss, will be greatly encouraged by the young Nigerian that he finds in front of him.
Able to play on both flanks, with dribbling and power, and proficient at providing width when there has been none before, Moses may well offer Mourinho an upgrade on Salomon Kalou, the Ivorian winger that the Portuguese manager so coveted early in his reign.