Very few football success stories will be quite as heartening as that of Victor Moses. The youngster’s rise into a professional footballer is befitting of a Hollywood script. Footballers often face ups and downs in their careers, but Moses’ football story was a tragedy even before he graced a football field.
Victor Moses was born in Lagos, Nigeria but grew up in the city of Kaduna. His father, Austin, was a Christian pastor and had his own church. The Northern city of Kaduna was plagued with religious and communcal violence; Austin Moses was a prominent figure of the community and an obvious target for the opposition. When Victor was just 11, he received the life-changing news that his parents’ home was torched, it’s inhabitants- burnt alive. That would be the turning point in young Victor Moses’ life. He, like thousands of others, was classified as an asylum-seeker and placed in a foster home. Soon after, while coming to terms with his saddening loss, he started playing football in the Tandridge Sunday League. It was then that Crystal Palace scouts spotted him, got him his permit and altered his legal status of an asylum seeker, admitting him into the Whitghit school to continue his academic and football education. Then Crystal Palace manager, Neil Warnock, would have an incredible influence on Victor’s career.
While playing for the Whitgift School’s football team, Victor Moses was a part of their successful FA Youth Cup winning side. They beat Grimsby school in the final 5-0 with Victor scoring all five goals. After enrolling into Crystal Palace’s illustrious academy, Moses continued to make noises; he scored more than 50 in his first season as a 14-year-old, including 10 in his debut game. After continuing to impress in the youth sides, Neil Warnock realised this young boy had something more in him.
He was handed his debut against Cardiff, coming on as a substitute for another highly-rated youngster, John Bostock. He was 17 at the time. Four more substitute appearances followed before he was finally named in the starting eleven in a 1-0 win away to Preston; he didn’t score but did receive his first booking. He then continued to earn his place in the starting eleven, scoring his first against West Brom to earn his side a point. He scored a total of 3 goals that season, and by now the footballing World had already taken note of this troubled youth.
18-year-old Moses established himself in the 2008/09 season, making a total of 32 appearances and impressing coaches & fans alike. Although he managed only 2 goals, his performances were impressive. He even received his first red card against Derby County in the penultimate game of the season. Moses was now being linked to England’s top sides as they scrambled to ensure they didn’t miss out on a top talent. The player though, remained at Selhurst Park. He scored six goals that campaign, including his first brace. In the 2010 January Transfer Window, the top sides came calling again, attempting to take advantage of Palace’s financial woes. Victor realised that a move was inevitable, but his growth was as crucial. Putting off the temptations of the Premier League’s elite, he moved to Wigan Athletic, caving in to the attraction of England’s top division but not at the cost of his development. He would make 14 appearances for the club, opening the scoring against Hull City in a 2-2 draw as both battled relegration.
He scored just twice in the following season, but he did manage to find a 70th minute winner against West Brom back on 10th November 2010. Wigan were favourites for the drop but managed to hold their own and ensure survival. Wigan were once again favourites to head back to the second division of English football, and despite looking like it for much of the season, Martinez and his boys pulled off a great escape. Wins against Arsenal, Liverpool and United changed their season around, as Roberto Martinez once again got his March-madness in tune. Moses scored 6 goals that season as Wigan remarkably beat the drop; he was one of their stand-out performers towards the end of the ‘Great Escape’.
Last season, Moses finally got his big move after once again being tracked by some of the big boys. Chelsea finally captured their man with a bid in the last week of the window. In fact his first game of the 2012/13 season was for Wigan Athletic against Chelsea. He scored his first for his new club a few weeks later in a 6-0 thrashing of Wolves. The season also marked Moses’ first appearance in the Champions League; he scored a stoppage time winner against Ukranian side Shakhtar Donetsk in the competition. It was only under Rafa Benitez that Moses was truly given an opportunity. He was a crucial part of the side that won the Europa League. He scored a goal in each leg of the quarter-finals and semi-finals leading into the final against Benfica. It was his best season in terms of goals, scoring 12 for both club and country.
Despite being born in Nigeria, Moses was eligible to appear for England and took the opportunity, appearing for various youth teams right from the U-16s to the U-21s. The management did see him as a potential member of the senior side, but when Nigeria came calling Moses opted to appear for his country of birth. He was a part of the Nigerian team that won the 2013 African Cup of Nations, scoring 2 goals against Ethiopia en route to the final.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
Moses is a winger, and can play on either side. He is primarily right footed, but is quite comfortable on his left leg as well. His natural tendency is to stay wide, and he was used by Benitez a lot last season to try and stretch teams.
As seen in the past, one very important attribute to succeed in the Premier League is the presence of physical qualities. Victor Moses is tall, strong and very quick. This physical presence is the base on which he builds the rest of his play. As a winger, his pace is very important, as it means he can take on opposing full backs, and often beat them. The strength (BMI of 23.9) also means that he isn’t bullied off the ball.
Another weapon in Moses’ locker is his excellent dribbling ability. Moses loves to run at players, and his quick changes in direction, coupled with his potent pace make him difficult to deal with. Moses was successful with 38% of his dribbles last season, and that is a fairly good percentage.
As far as passing is concerned, Moses is a bit weak. A lot of his passes are of the shorter variety, they do find their target, but the weight of these passes is often far from ideal. A probable reason for this is that he is mostly in the opposition half, where it is tougher to complete passes. He tends not to make incisive passes there as he sometimes lacks composure, and chooses to stick to his strengths, which is running at defenders.
It has been mentioned that Moses can also be utilised as a make-shift striker, while his attributes are apt for a winger, he could be effective is shifted into a more central role. Below is an illustration of one of Moses’ best performance in a Chelsea shirt from last season. His tendency to shift into a central role and advance into a strikers’ position is evident.
As a winger, his competency should be his crossing. As far as this is concerned, Moses doesn’t like playing early crosses. Due to his love of beating defenders, he will, more often than not, try to get to the by-line before firing in a cross. This is regarded as a positive tendency, but in Moses’ case, especially last season, it backfired. The Nigerian was often stopped in his tracks, as defenders and coaches got the hang of his movement, and not many of his crosses reached his targets. In fact, one might say that Moses was the worst winger in the league on the basis of the fact that only 8% of his crosses were accurate. This was the lowest in the league. However, I do believe that this isn’t a wholly accurate reflection of his true ability.
The lack of accuracy from crosses also means that he isn’t incisive with his chance creation. He had a decent chance created per game ratio last season, but garnered only one assist in 12 starts, and 11 substitute appearances. He has the basic skills when it comes to being a good winger, he just needs to work on refining some aspects, such as where to put his crosses. If he starts weighing them, and placing them better, he could be a very dangerous winger. He could also try to cross the ball earlier. At Wigan, he did this quite often, and was devastatingly effective.
Below is a sample of Moses’ creative ability. While most of his created chances are from the flanks, against West Ham he showcased his vision from a more centralised position.
As far as goals are concerned, Moses shoots mostly with his right foot, and gets a lot of power behind his shots. His goals against Southampton, and Boro in the FA Cup were thunderous strikes. He scored a couple of headed goals as well last season, but it would be unfair to say he has extraordinary heading ability.
Moses can be best utilised by a team as a counter attacking option, with his pace, and dribbling ability. Also, his tendency to lose his composure in crowded areas means that the space afforded to him on the counter will prove beneficial for him, as a player. His performance away against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League bears testament to his effectiveness as a player used to effect quick attacking transitions.
“It is difficult to find players like him, not just in England, and I’m sure he could adapt to anything. Even if you look at the great footballing cultures like Spain and Holland you see players of his type are very rare. Victor could have been a real weapon for any team in the world. Victor is a quite unique player. When you work with him you realise he is not a normal footballer, not a typical modern winger. He is an old-fashioned type of winger with incredible raw talent which allows him to go past people. He brings real penetration to the wide positions.”
— Roberto Martinez, Everton manager, quoted by ESPNFC.com
“Victor has been great. It another player who works very hard. He has not missed a single minute of training. I think Victor is a very good option for us. In the position of Victor, we have Hazard, De Bruyne, Schürrle. it is a position where a coach can make a change during a meeting and give a new life and new blood to the team. He is a player who makes the team stronger and gives us options.”
— Jose Mourinho, Chelsea manager, via AllAfrica.com
“Victor was coming through and I could see he has been growing and improving. I am really pleased for both [Mikel & Moses] of them [for winning the AFCON], and to be so influential is a great achievement for Victor.”
— Rafael Benitez, ex-Chelsea manager, via Standard.co.uk
“If you look at the teams at the top of the Premier League, you can’t tell me he wouldn’t get into those sides. He was unplayable at times – he is working hard now and grafting every match. I hope he remembers me in a few years time when I come asking him for tickets”
— Neil Warnock, ex-Crystal Palace boss, quoted by DailyMail.co.uk
If rumour mills are to be believed, Moses is probably on his way out of Chelsea. With the arrival of Willian, Chelsea have 7 players for 3 positions, and according to Mourinho, he would like to trim the squad a little. Though he might just be sold, the stated preference for Chelsea would be to loan him out. He will have no shortage of suitors, with both Everton and Liverpool being linked with the Nigerian. The move will probably be good for Moses, as he needs playing time to develop, and secure his spot on Nigeria’s World Cup team.
Liverpool seem to be the most likely destination for the 22-year-old. The agency that represents Victor Moses, besides having some of the best talents in the World, also has Liverpool players Lucas and Coutinho on their client list which could be a factor.
UPDATE: Victor Moses joined Liverpool on loan.
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