The ex-Nigeria wideman’s move to Spartak Moscow was finalised at the weekend, but could he have offered solutions to the Blues?
Many Chelsea supporters could be forgiven for forgetting Victor Moses was still contracted to the Blues until his permanent transfer to Spartak Moscow on July 2.
Having been sent out on several loans to Fenerbahce, Inter Milan and the Russian club since January 2019, the 30-year-old had fallen under the radar in the last two years. Indeed, the process of fading away from the public eye began in the summer of 2018 following Maurizio Sarri’s appointment in West London.
At the time, Goal predicted the West African falling out of favour broadly due to a change in tactic from a 3-4-3 to a 4-3-3 and an altered style of play under the former Napoli boss. Unsurprisingly, Moses featured only six times in the first half of 18/19 before leaving for the Turkish giants.
He departs after 128 appearances in nine years, but could the 16/17 Premier League winner have added to that number in the final year of his contract under Thomas Tuchel?
The former Borussia Dortmund trainer has, by and large, reverted to a back three that had generally been eschewed since Antonio Conte’s departure three years ago. Tuchel’s Blues recovered from the mid-season wobble under Frank Lampard to end fourth in the league and claim the club’s second Champions League success.
Despite his reputation as a tactical chameleon, the ex-Paris Saint-Germain boss rarely deviated from a possession-focused 3-4-3, which helped tighten the West London club’s backline that struggled for clean sheets in the final weeks of Lampard’s reign.
Tuchel’s selections at right wing-back were interesting. His deployment of Callum Hudson-Odoi — principally a left-winger who’d become adept on the right — in that role somewhat resembled Moses’ conversion under Conte in 2016.
After a few indifferent performances from the former Bayern Munich target, the Chelsea head coach made Reece James the starter at RWB for the West Londoners.
In the final weeks of the season, though, there was an inclination to play the young Englishman deeper, effectively seeing Cesar Azpilicueta and the young right-back switch positions and roles.
Even though the Spain international offered steady performances at wing-back, there’s a sense his age and declining athleticism suggest it was only a short-term fix. The constant chopping and changing in that role portrayed a manager seemingly unconvinced by his options in that position.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the summer has prompted transfer targets to Achraf Hakimi and Adama Traore, possible solutions to the London giant’s issue at wing-back.
The Morocco star seems destined for a move to Tuchel’s former side PSG after a presumed unwillingness to outspend the Ligue 1 side—Chelsea reportedly wanted to offer lower than the French giants, including a player or two in negotiations.
For Adama, doubts remain about his overall ability, end product and consistency. The powerful Wolverhampton Wanderers attacker often flatters to deceive after getting into promising positions and failed to kick on from an impressive 2019/20.
Having contributed 13 goals and assists in Nuno Espirito Santo’s penultimate campaign at Molineux, the Spain winger’s goal involvements dropped to four last season. Curiously, having outperformed his expected goals and assists two seasons ago, the 25-year-old went on to underperform projected numbers last term.
Despite the unending clamour to back the manager in the transfer market, doubts over the Wolves man has seen fans prefer the current options are utilised in 21/22 rather than spend on someone who will not necessarily raise the standard.
For all of Hakimi’s gifts and end product, a section of Blues followers didn’t see the logic in chasing the Inter wide defender due to the shortage of quality in other positions. The club’s issues at centre-forward, their limited options in central midfield and a perceived absence of quality at centre-back mostly prompted doubts over the club’s priorities.
The latter, in particular, may lead to Tuchel sticking to a three-man defence as it masks several players’ weaknesses when deployed in a back four.
Given the aforementioned obstacles regarding targets and the current make-up of the team, there may have been some logic in Moses returning to offer a temporary solution at right wing-back.
His performances in that position never resulted in a plethora of direct involvements — and an unpredictable final ball often frustrated fans — still, room could have been made for the former Super Eagle due to the financial realities of the pandemic and short-term squad building.
It can be theorised that bringing back Moses for his last year rather than commit to an equally inconsistent Adama for the next four or five seasons represents sounder judgement if Tuchel truly desires another body in that position.
The upshot of that happening would have seen Chelsea concentrate on other pressing positions — and possibly revisit in a year — as opposed to shelling out a relatively high fee on the Wolves man’s transfer and wages.
It remains to be seen how the West London club approach the summer window, but allowing Moses one last Stamford Bridge hurrah could have benefitted those at Cobham temporarily and long term.