The Italian head coach’s recent admission of the wideman not fitting in shouldn’t come as a surprise given writing was on the wall from the outset
COMMENT By Seye Omidiora Follow on Twitter
For the average football player, the most dreaded part of having a managerial change at your club is the fear of the unknown.
Not knowing how you’ll fit in under a new style of play and new way of doing things. The greatest fear is going from mainstay to outcast.
Victor Moses probably started having doubts about his future once the Antonio Conte exit rumors began to gather pace last season.
Prior to the Italian’s arrival, he was on the outside looking in at Chelsea, but a change of tactic, to a 3-4-3, saw him make the jump from peripheral figure to vital cog in the Blues side.
The wing-back made 62 Premier League and 11 cup (Carabao Cup and FA Cup) appearances over the next two seasons, as the West London club picked up a fifth league title in Conte’s first year, before sealing an FA Cup triumph at the backend of last season – the club’s eighth triumph in the competition.
When the appointment of Maurizio Sarri seemed inevitable, a plethora of fans and critics believed the Nigerian wasn’t going to be a beneficiary under the former Napoli manager.
Deep down, Moses himself might have felt that way as well, but was never going to cave to the media frenzy by not backing himself to force his way into the side.
However, it was obvious from the start the Stamford Bridge club were always going to ditch the aforementioned system that utilized wing-backs for a back four which was the newly appointed head coach’s way.
And the consequence of that sole tweak saw Moses suddenly competing with Cesar Azpilicueta and Davide Zappacosta for a right-back slot, as opposed to only having the Italian defender as competition at right wing-back.
Knowing the former Nigeria international lacked the characteristics to play as a full-back, chances were always going to be at a premium, as he was only going to get chances in a more advanced role – something Sarri confirmed in recent days.
“Moses is more suitable for playing like a wing back, than a winger or a full back,” the coach told journalists.
“Do they have a future at Chelsea?” he continued, speaking of Moses and midfielder Danny Drinkwater. “I don’t know. They have to improve but their characteristics are a little bit different.”
However, those chances of getting a look-in further forward looked bleaker after taking into account that he had to compete with Eden Hazard, Pedro Rodriguez and Willian. The same situation played out at the start of Conte’s first year, which saw Moses serve as fourth-choice winger.
He had to make do with substitute appearances before the tactical switch and a return to the previous scenario appeared inevitable.
The emergence of Callum Hudson-Odoi in pre-season even threatened to push the Nigerian further down in the pecking order, but that hasn’t been the case as the Premier League champion retained his place as fourth choice, at the youngster’s expense.
The fact that fans have voiced their discontent about the aforementioned situation just shows how much Moses’s stock has fallen. Hudson-Odoi had an amazing pre-season, and many expected him to get a few games, especially in the Europa League and League Cup, but Moses has been preferred in those games – to their annoyance.
Sarriball or Sarrismo, the philosophy of the new Chelsea trainer, focuses on short passing, crisp interplay and interchangeability of positions. These aren’t the strengths of the more direct Moses, who’s not played in a possession system since he featured under Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic.
Article continues below
Even in his years with the Latics, the dreadlocked wideman was deployed on the left wing and was tasked with beating the opposing full-back before passing, crossing or shooting. He was rarely involved in the fancy stuff in the buildup, owing to his deficiencies, and being pushed to the curb in his current situation was only a matter of time.
He’s gone from having over 5,000 minutes of football across two seasons to less than 200 in all competitions almost three months into the season, and you get the feeling it won’t get any better for the wideman at Chelsea.
Sarri’s admission in a recent press conference held a few days back only confirmed what many already knew as soon as he was appointed – Victor Moses just doesn’t suit Sarriball. He’s epitomized the mainstay to outcast story in more ways than one, and it might be time to seek pastures anew given his ostracism in west London.