Not too many moons ago, it seemed Victor Moses’ Chelsea career was all but officially over. He’s spent the last two seasons exiled to Liverpool and Stoke City on loan, leading many to assume he’d leave the Premier League champions permanently this summer. But Potters boss Mark Hughes, the likeliest candidate to acquire the 24-year-old’s signature after his impressive spell at the Britannia Stadium last term, believes Jose Mourinho has offered Moses an unexpected lifeline.
Talking to the Stoke Sentinel earlier this month, he said; “I think Chelsea have a view on Victor. What they’re thinking we believe is that they would possibly like to keep him. If they go into the market again that could change that idea.
“Victor obviously came to us last year and did exceptionally well for us. There were a couple of injuries that hampered him unfortunately but he showed enough in his time with us that it made Chelsea very aware of the talent they have and what Victor could offer. It could be that Victor now plays a part at Chelsea.”
Of course, trying to second-guess Jose Mourinho has always been a fool’s game. He’s yet to substantiate Hughes’ hypothesis and as a relatively young, home-grown player with plenty of top flight experience, Chelsea could easily pick up a tidy return on their £9million investment this summer. Yet, it’s an intriguing situation well worth further speculation and examination, so we ask the question: does Moses deserve his second chance in west London?
His first and only full season at Stamford Bridge was not a complete nightmare by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it was Moses’ most prolific to date; bagging 10 goals in 43 appearances across all competitions – including five goals in Europe as the Blues lifted the Europa League title – to rank sixth in the club’s scoring charts for the 2012/13 campaign.
Nevertheless, the winger-forward failed to convince as the second coming of Jose Mourinho ushered a new era of transfer ruthlessness in west London. Whilst predecessors may have warranted Moses longer to develop towards the Blues’ level, Mourinho was intent on reshaping his squad and ensuring success as soon as possible, resulting in 22 permanent signings and 47 permanent departures over the course of the last five transfer windows. Involving the inexperienced, unproven 24-year-old was a risk the Portuguese tactician simply didn’t want to take.
The subsequent loan move to Liverpool didn’t help Moses’ cause much either, managing just two goals in 22 appearances across all competitions. But circumstance defied the Nigerian international at Anfield; he was left on the fringes of a rarely changing starting XI that surpassed expectations to finish just three points short of the title, serving under a manager whose two favoured formations – a 3-5-2 and a midfield diamond – that didn’t include attacking wide players. Last year’s spell at Stoke City was a far better representation of his abilities.
Of course, Moses’ fatal flaw has always been output. Throughout his entire senior career, he’s scored just 43 goals from 261 appearances and only 13 from 135 outings in the Premier League. Compare that to Eden Hazard, Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou or even John Terry – it’s just not the standard one would expect from a regular in the Blues’ attack. His assist’s tally isn’t up to much either.
But another Chelsea star can be accused of the same intrinsic curse – the energetic, industrious and goal-shy Willian, who played as crucial a role as Hazard, Terry or Diego Costa in the West Londoners claiming last season’s Premier League title.
There is a significant talent gap between the two but they are of a very similar mould. Like the Brazil international, Moses can be hugely influential to build-up play, last season averaging 2.2 shots, 1.7 created chances, 1.6 accurate crosses and 3.3 successful dribbles per match for the Potters, despite only claiming three goals and three assists in 19 appearances. That was the most created chances per match of any Stoke player and the third-best dribbling return in the Premier League – only trumped by Hazard and Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Physically too, Moses and Willian aren’t miles apart. The latter’s pace, energy, work-rate and mobility borders upon insurmountable, but the former is likewise a fantastically hard-worker with great power and speed – three attributes of only increasing importance at Chelsea under Mourinho.
Now, that doesn’t mean Moses is destined to succeed at Stamford Bridge. It could even be argued one Willian is more than enough for any team, especially in a position as output-orientated as attacking midfield. Furthermore, the 26 year-old has hardly missed a second of his two campaigns with the Blues, racking up 91 appearances in total, so it’s not as if he’s in pertinent need of a like-for-like understudy.
But for a player who once cost the Blues a meagre £9million, qualifies as home-grown – both under the current system and Greg Dyke’s parameter-changing proposals – and in my opinion, has proved himself to be at the very least top half Premier League quality, it’s a situation Chelsea can’t really lose from.
And make no mistake about it, Moses has worked hard to silence the doubters during his two campaigns in exile. As much as it’s a relatively risk-free scenario for Chelsea, the Nigeria star deserves another shot at a club that seemed beyond his station two years ago.