Connect in the back of the net

Jamie Redknapp will find it difficult to live down his description of Victor Moses as a “good, young English talent doing well” during his role as a Sky Sports pundit before Chelsea played Southampton.

This week Moses will line-up for Nigeria in the World Cup qualifier against Algeria.

Redknapp’s naïve laziness is deserving of mockery, but it should act as a backhanded compliment to Moses who is finally getting recognition for his talent at Chelsea.

He has had to wait longer than the promising start he made to life at Stamford Bridge suggested he would do, his 12 starts and total of 43 appearances in his first year with Chelsea after making the move from Wigan soon evaporating into a series of loan spells with Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham.

The winger recently explained the frustrations of life under Jose Mourinho, claiming the Portuguese manager didn’t speak to him when at Chelsea but now, under new manager Antonio Conte, who Moses says is willing to give everyone a chance, everybody is talking about the 25-year-old.

 

The right-hand man

Moses has become the right-hand man in Conte’s favoured 3-4-3, a system that has brought Chelsea 5 straight league wins since he abandoned the 4-2-3-1 after a chastening defeat to Arsenal.

Goals are being scored freely and none are being shipped, with 4-0 and 5-0 thrashings of Manchester United and Everton, with Moses vibrant in both games, suggesting they are genuine challengers for the title.

It is the most unexpected of revivals for Moses who seemed, during a largely forgettable spell with West Ham, to have joined the list of so many Chelsea talents who have found themselves surplus to requirements.

His emergence from the bench against West Ham on the opening weekend of the season marked his first appearance in the blue of Chelsea for three years but now he is on a run of 5 straight starts since being welcomed back into Conte’s plans for the pivotal win at Hull City.

 

Energetic and diligent

Energetic and diligent in his defensive work, traits vital to the Italian’s style, the insurance of a solid back-3 has permitted Moses to get forward and offer the adventurous flair that got his goal against Leicester and provided the assist for Eden Hazard’s opening goal at Southampton.

Moses was excellent in the win on the south coast and could have helped himself to a few more goals, only to see Fraser Forster deny him on a couple of occasions.

Moses was also denied against Everton, this time by the post, but was again outstanding as part of the Chelsea attack that left the Toffee’s defence in tatters with irrepressible movement and fluid inter-change.

Eden Hazard was mesmerising in getting his two goals while Pedro has enjoyed his own renaissance on the right side of the attacking triumvirate.

But Moses, possessing the stamina, verve and discipline to fit in with Conte’s specific demands on the right of the midfield 4 in a wing-back role, deserves credit for managing to keep Willian, the energetic winger who seems tailor made for Conte’s system, out of the side.

 

The right mentor

If the winger also needs direction, then the passionate Conte, who repeatedly barked orders at his player during the rout, is not afraid to give it.

The presence of Cesar Azpilicueta, one of the most intelligent defenders in the game, filling the space behind him also helps, handing Moses more licence to press-high and join attacks.

Despite adapting to the typically solid defensive demands of the Italian’s system, Conte is entitled to ask for a better end-product from his winger however, with Moses creating only 8 chances so far, though his rate of only 24.3 passes per game and total of 31 dribbles suggest the Italian wants the Nigerian to utilise his pace and be more direct on the ball rather than more contemplative and ponderous, again fitting more into his strengths.

“It gives you a lot of confidence when the manager believes in you”, said Moses, who spoke of how Conte noticed what he had to offer immediately over the summer and made it clear that he would not be going out for a fourth loan spell.

Contrast that with the cold treatment he received from Mourinho who, as Moses felt, had his settled group of players.

One of those was Branislav Ivanovic whose ageing years fails to fit in with the emphasis on athleticism that Conte and his system prioritises.

“The formation we’re playing really suits the way I play, and the other players as well. We’re very intense, we want to shut down our opponents and get the ball forward on counter-attacks,” said the winger.

 

A new Chelsea

It is a new Chelsea, not so much in personnel, but in attitude and purpose, with Hazard, Pedro and Diego Costa reborn, Marcos Alonso settling in quickly, N’Golo Kante brilliant as always and Moses plucked from obscurity.

By simply installing faith and confidence in his players, Conte has rejuvenated his team, with Moses one of the most surprising benefactors.

“But I’m good, I’m confident and I want to stay like this” said Moses on his website, and under a caring, driven manager fervidly carving out the road ahead, then it will stay like this for a long while yet.

 

Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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