Is Victor Moses Becoming Antonio Conte's Emanuele Giaccherini at Chelsea?

21 Jul 2016

Is Victor Moses Becoming Antonio Conte's Emanuele Giaccherini at Chelsea?

We know all about the mystique of Antonio Conte. Not only is the new Chelsea head coach seen as a tactical magician, the Italian is famed for getting the most out of his players.

At Euro 2016, it was Emanuele Giaccherini who benefited from the Conte effect. The midfielder looked completely unrecognisable to fans of Premier League football who had witnessed him struggle for the past few seasons at Sunderland.

The 31-year-old found it so tough in England that he couldn't even get into a struggling Black Cats side last year and was sent out on loan to Bologna.

He was a man possessed for the Azzurri, however. Operating on the left of Italy's five-man midfield in France, Giaccherini was an animal hungry for a feast. He tormented defenders and even scored the goal that set his team on their way to a 2-0 victory over Belgium in the group stage.

Giaccherini's form this summer under Conte's guidance has earned him a move from the Stadium of Light to Serie A giants Napoli. There will be no more relegation scraps for Giaccherini; it's Champions League football for him now.

For Conte's next project at Chelsea, step forward, Victor Moses.

On the balance of Chelsea's first two matches of pre-season under the new boss, Moses is the name that has stood out. We've seen youngsters such as Ola Aina and Nathaniel Chalobah step in and impress with the game time they've been given, but the former Wigan Athletic man has been the story so far.

We've seen this before with him. Last summer Moses looked impressive when Chelsea toured the United States. He was full of energy for Jose Mourinho's side and made an impact, but we always knew that when the season started, the manager would be turning to his trusted allies.

Indeed, it wasn't long before the 25-year-old was sent across London to join West Ham United for the season. After a promising start at Upton Park, he gradually slipped down the pecking order, though. It didn't become the positive season he was hoping it would.

This time things feel different. Moses has been Chelsea's stand-out player in their short tour of Austria, and he's doing it for a manager who seems to be giving everyone at Stamford Bridge a clean slate. Even Papy Djilobodji is getting game time at the moment as Conte looks to shape his squad ahead of the new season that starts in four weeks.

There are holes that must be filled in his team, too. There are the defensive problems that we're expecting to be addressed, and in midfield, Conte is looking for a player to cover the left side of his four-man attack, assuming he doesn't opt for Eden Hazard in that role.

If we're comparing Moses and Hazard, there is no comparison to be made. The latter stands in the world-class category and for all his endeavour, Moses simply can't compete with that.

What makes Conte's teams so effective, though, is a desire for them to function as one. That requires players in certain positions to perform their tasks effectively, such as dropping in to cover the wide areas when the team doesn't have possession.

It's for that reason Conte is so animated on the sidelines. He's moving with the defensive line to ensure it maintains shape; he's pulling his wide men as far to the touchline as he can to make the pitch bigger. He needs his players to listen and follow his instructions.

Moses has done that well in these first two games. We saw Chelsea switch formation to a 4-4-1-1 when defending against Rapid Vienna at the weekend, a move which was repeated in the 3-0 victory over RZ Pellets on Wednesday.

Looking over his shoulder at the space in behind him isn't what Hazard is good at. That quality—or lack thereof—is what drove Mourinho insane with the Belgian, which is why there's an expectation that Conte may look to play him through the middle instead in this new system he's introduced.

On paper at least, it makes sense. Hazard is a threat in front of goal, and with his technical ability he can double up as a striker and No. 10 all at once alongside Diego Costa.

A week ago, these were options Chelsea didn't seem to have. From appearing threadbare and in desperate need of a major overhaul, Conte's approach has brought about a revitalised feeling to the squad that the Blues were craving.

Suddenly they look overstocked in attacking areas when we consider that Pedro, Willian, Kenedy and Juan Cuadrado will also be competing for those two wide positions.

On profile alone, Moses loses out to almost all of them. But in these early stages of pre-season, he's stolen a march on his team-mates who have been enjoying their late holidays. The Nigerian has shown the sort of graft and commitment that puts a sparkle in Conte's eye and the manager has responded.

Against Rapid Vienna, the midfielder wasn't taken off until the 80th minute; he played for 89 minutes against RZ Pellets to make him second to John Terry for minutes on the pitch of all the outfield players.

With unlimited substitutes and a bench that had Kenedy and others who could play in his position, Conte's insistence on keeping Moses on the pitch for so long hints at something bigger down the line for him.

Like Giaccherini, Moses is unfancied and the antithesis of what we expect from Chelsea. But is he ready to become a regular under Conte?


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