How Chelsea Forward Victor Moses Can Get His Career Back on Track

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How Chelsea Forward Victor Moses Can Get His Career Back on Track
Dmitry Korotayev/Getty Images

Back in the summer of 2012, as Victor Moses prepared to swap Wigan Athletic for Chelsea, Latics chairman Dave Whelan was typically vocal in his criticism of the move.

Initially, the fee was a sticking point.

Wigan were holding out for £10 million while Chelsea obduracy eventually saw the price drop to £8.5 million. The sportswear magnate also had other qualms, not least how Moses would fare with the Pensioners.

Speaking to the Wigan Evening Post (via The Daily Mail), Whelan expressed concern at the Nigerian’s prospects should he switch to Stamford Bridge: “'If he gets the move to Chelsea, will he get to play in the first team every week? That's what he needs at present – experience and guidance.” 

Initially, the owner’s concerns proved to be ill-founded.

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Moses made 23 Premier League appearances over the 2012-13 season, while he scored two in five in the FA Cup, two in three in the League Cup and five in 10 in Europe.

While he only scored once in the EPL, his contribution in the cups, during Chelsea’s Europa League-winning campaign, read: played 18, scored nine.

Encouraging ratios, not to mention some pertinent contributions, specifically against Manchester United in the League Cup, Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League and FC Basel in the Europa League semi-final, marked the season out as a successful one for Moses.

The Cup of Nations victory with Nigeria in early 2013 was the icing on the cake.

Moses was initially recruited by Roberto Di Matteo. In the summer of 2012, following Chelsea’s Champions League triumph, the Italian was charged with both improving the club’s style of play and with lowering the squad’s average age. It was a remit that Andre Villas-Boas had struggled to achieve a year earlier, but Di Matteo’s work in the transfer market generated optimism. 

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Beyond Moses, Di Matteo also sought to achieve these goals by bringing Marko Marin, Oscar and Eden Hazard to the club.

There has, however, been a clear dichotomy between the fortunes of these four players. While Hazard and Oscar have become key figures under new manager Jose Mourinho, establishing themselves among the Premier League’s finest attacking midfielders, Marin has six Premier League appearances to his name—none of which came under the Portuguese manager.

Similarly, Moses was offloaded by the former Real Madrid boss upon his arrival at Stamford Bridge.

The Nigerian’s switch to Liverpool appeared to be a promising one for all parties.

Upon his loan move, I anticipated that Brendan Rodgers would opt for Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge rotating between a central and a wide berth, Philippe Coutinho in a No. 10 role and Moses stationed out on the left, providing width and direct running.

I hadn’t banked on the renewed emergence of Raheem Sterling.

The England youngster had a terrific season, demonstrating the courage and invention—not to mention the versatility—that was all too absent from Moses’ sporadic performances.

The Nigerian scored one goal in six starts for the Reds last season, contributing no assists. Sterling, by contrast, four years Moses’ junior, scored nine and contributed five assists in 24 starts.

The influence of one was matched only by the anonymity of the other. While Sterling demonstrated vitality and urgency, Moses looked listless and uninspired.

His troubled time at Liverpool carried over to Brazil where, with the Super Eagles, Moses wholly failed to recreate his stunning showings at the 2013 AFCON.

He made two starts, against Iran and France, and was completely overlooked for Nigeria’s matches against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Argentina, amid rumours, as per AfricanFootball.com of an injury or a dispute with Stephen Keshi. According to WhoScored.com, Moses managed only a 1.5 dribble-success-rate average and contributed no key passes. 

It would have taken a sterling season at Liverpool and possibly an impressive World Cup for Moses to reassert himself in Mourinho’s plans.

The squad is now crammed with the kind of forward options with whom the Nigerian will compete for a squad place. The likes of Willian, Andre Schurrle, Ramires and Mohamed Salah are firmly ahead of him in the pecking order while, looking beyond the upcoming season, Thorgan Hazard, Bertrand Traore and Christian Atsu appear to represent the future of the club.

It’s hard to envisage a long and prosperous relationship between Moses and Chelsea.

The time has come for the forward to look elsewhere.

While he can offer direct running and searing speed to an elite side, potentially giving them an extra dimension in attack, the wisest move at this point in time may well be a switch to a lower-calibre Premier League club.

At 23, Moses has largely failed to deliver on the promise he demonstrated during 2012 and the early part of 2013. He is worryingly close to stagnating, as was evidenced in his peripheral performances for the Super Eagles in Brazil.

Was this the result of a lack of game time during the Premier League season? Was it the result of a lack of confidence following his troubled spell at Liverpool?

Either way, Moses needs to seek a move to a club where he can once again be a key figure, as he was at Wigan, as he was at Crystal Palace before that and as he was at Nigeria during the early portion of his international career.

At the 2013 Cup of Nations, there were two showings, in particular, that crystallised Moses’ talent. The first was the group-stage victory over Ethiopia, when the winger’s dribbling ability and speed spread panic within the Walias’ back line. He was twice brought down in the box and twice converted from the penalty spot, giving the Super Eagles an invaluable 2-0 victory.

Then, there was the semi-final against Mali, when Nigeria ran out 4-1 victors. Here, Moses was the chief protagonist.

Here’s how I described his performance in my match report for Goal.com:

When it comes to ‘tempo’, however, Victor Moses is often in a class of his own – and this occasion was no different. The Chelsea man was in stunning form, and it was his invention and natural ability that broke the deadlock. Bursting down the right flank, he sold the Malian left-back with a Cruyff turn before sending a delicious curling cross into the six-yard box. Elderson was on hand to finish things off, stooping low to head the ball past Samassa.

To get his career back on track, Moses needs a change of scene. He needs to find a club that will allow him to once again be a big fish in a small pond and re-imbue the forward with a sense of being a “key man” once more.

My colleague at Goal Nigeria, Solace Chukwu, explained the logic behind such a potential move:

The pattern is clear; the Liverpool man will thrive only where he is the alpha dog, or at least certain of his place. Pressured by competition, he seeks the shade. Under Roberto Martinez at Wigan, a notoriously attacking manager, he excelled in an unusual 3-4-3 that played with great width and emphasized self-expression. His talent is not in doubt, and in order for the Super Eagles to do well, he must be indulged. It would be beneficial for the coaching crew to make the Super Eagles his personal Fortress of Solitude.

Perhaps West Bromwich Albion, who are accruing quite a stable of Nigerian talent, could be a good destination. The prospect of £10 million record-signing Ideye Brown leading the line with Victor Anichebe to his right and Victor Moses to his left would surely appeal to both Baggies fans and Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi.

The selfless work of Ideye and Anichebe would also, doubtless, appeal to the “striker-within” for Moses as he could expect to improve on his meagre league tallies of the last two seasons alongside such company.

Another appealing option might well be Everton, not least because of the presence of former Latics boss Roberto Martinez. Perhaps no one has had a big an influence on Moses’ career as the Spaniard.

Indeed, Whelan, speaking ahead of Moses’s potential move to Chelsea, delivered a fascinating insight on the manager’s relationship with the Nigeria winger.

Speaking to the Wigan Evening Post (via The Daily Mail), he said the following:

We took this lad as a teenager, and everything he has he owes to Roberto Martinez and Wigan Athletic. Roberto has coached him and coached him, he's helped him through games, and he's played him and not played him at exactly the right time. 

He's looked after him in every single day in training, making sure he does the right things. But these lads are being told one thing now, time and time again: listen to your agent, not the manager.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Now might be the ideal time for player and manager to resume their prosperous relationship.

At Everton, Moses would face much less competition for a place than he did at Liverpool. Similarly, with the Blues’ limited resources and the prospect of an extended Europa League run, the forward can expect to feature extensively.

Surely, too, Martinez would relish the prospect not only of working with a talent he knows intricately, but also of recruiting a player who has proved himself capable of influencing the latter stages of Europe’s secondary club competition.

The Blues, as they have demonstrated in their purchases of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and, previously, Tim Howard, are not afraid of working with players who have been deemed surplus to requirements at bigger clubs.

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It may be that Christian Atsu, who is being lined up for a loan move from Chelsea, as per Simon Jones of the Daily Mail, is set to follow the Gerard Deulofeu route to stardom, via the finishing school of Goodison Park. 

While a loan deal might appeal to Everton, considering the club’s notorious financial restraints and Moses’ underwhelming season, the best bet for the forward might be a permanent deal.

It would allow him to begin to re-establish himself at a club and start to look forward to the next stage of his career.

Few doubt that Moses has the talent to be a key protagonist in the Premier League. At the moment, however, he is at risk of becoming a “what-might-have-been” of the African game.

A reunion with Martinez might be the ideal way of getting his career back on track.

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