Chelsea’s latest attacking midfield acquisitions, in the shape of Brazilian Willian and German André Schürrle, highlights the fact that they have an abundance of offensive talent at their disposal. Consequently, players such as the frighteningly talented Juan Mata have been pushed to the periphery of the squad in favor of these new additions, which appears ludicrous for someone with 25 assists in the past two years, and he’s been the clubs Player of the Year twice in the process. However Mata, a proven Spanish international, will be able to find plenty of suitors for his extraordinary talents but players in the shape of Victor Moses may have a tougher time of it as they are, as of yet, unproven top talents despite having the raw potential to really shine on the Premier League stage.
For players in Moses’ position there are three possible choices: they can either stay and fight for their place in the team by showing their potential in training and cup competitions; they could accept that they may never break into the first team and pack up in search of pastures new; or, finally, they can seek a loan move to gain more match experience and try to shine in a different environment.
Following plenty of recent speculation, it seems that Moses, and to some degree Chelsea, have chosen option three: to loan him out in order to aid his development and/or increase his price tag for next summer’s transfer window. Leading the race are Liverpool who, after many well publicized failed attempts to lure top attacking talent to the shores of the Mersey, are still looking to add strength and depth to their frontline. Following the departures of both Carroll and Downing, albeit to the relief of most LFC supporters, Brendan Rodgers has set his stall out to bring in talented forwards who can play across the front three, or four, if you take into account the AM position, but so far has only strengthened his offensive unit with Iago Aspas. Moses would definitely add an extra dimension to Rodgers’ team, with his more direct running game complementing the technical elements that are expected of a Rodgers Liverpool team. Yet with the right forward position in LFC’s line up still up for grabs, following Stewart Downing’s vacation of the role, could the young Nigerian be the solution or could he be an ample stop-gap until the club can identify new targets?
Victor Moses: Player Background
Moses, 22, is a Nigerian international who arrived in England as an asylum seeker at a young age, after the terrible deaths of his mother and father. He qualified for the England national team and had represented England at U16, U17, U19 and U21 level before choosing to represent his heritage and opt for Nigeria. He is one of many top talents to come through the, much vaunted Crystal Palace farm system, just look at Wilfred Zaha and Jonny Williams as other examples, where he made 58 senior appearances for the Eagles, scoring 11 goals. Unfortunately for Palace, Moses was a victim of the club’s financial troubles and was sold at a cut-price fee of £2.5 million, a small amount for such a young talented player, to Wigan. At Wigan, Moses excelled, gaining plaudits for his performances as he rose to prominence in the 2011/12 season before securing a move to Chelsea for a reported fee of £9 million.
During Chelsea’s turbulent 2012/13 season, Moses still managed to have a notable impact on the team’s fortunes with a Man of the Match performance in the League Cup win at Old Trafford versus Manchester United, scoring the late winner in the Champions League group stage match against Shakhtar Donetsk and performing a vital role in the Europa League winning team scoring 4 goals in 6 appearances. However, despite an impressive first campaign at Chelsea he looks set to complete a loan move to Liverpool before the window (cliché alert) slams shut on Monday evening.
Having predominantly played on Chelsea’s right wing, would Moses be an upgrade on the now departed Stewart Downing? And if so, could he become an integral part of the Liverpool front three? This article intends to investigate Moses’ form over the past two seasons, at Wigan and Chelsea, and to compare those performance levels to that of Stewart Downing.
Goal Scoring Instinct
As you can see from the table above, Moses’ time at Chelsea was limited to a large number of substitute appearances, he started only 12 games across the whole Premier League Campaign. This is in complete contrast to his time at Wigan where he played a significant role in every single game with only two of his appearances coming form the bench. Downing, after a slow start under Brendan Rodgers, managed to force himself into the first team, racking up a total of 29 appearances, which included an impressive run of 19 consecutive starts between the end of November and the start of April. The consequences of such a stop-start campaign for Moses cannot be underestimated. Some players thrive on being a substitute, for example Lukaku who scored 35% of his goals as a substitute last season, with others failing to impress due to the added pressure of trying to prove themselves in a short amount of time.
*Clear cut chance conversion (scored/missed)
The statistics above appear to show that neither player should be considered a consistent goal threat from the wide positions in the same vein as a Hazard (9 PL goals in 12/13) or Walcott (14 PL goals in 12/13). Yet in the 2011/12 season, Moses was top scorer in a struggling Wigan team that could only muster 42 goals between them. For a player who cannot be considered a conventional goal scorer this is quite impressive, especially considering he was just 20 at the time. It is surprising, however, that the goals dried up for him in the league at Chelsea, yet when you further explore his goal scoring exploits at the club in 2012/13, across the four Domestic and European Cup Competitions that he was involved in, he scored a total of 10 goals, the sixth highest in the team and more goals than the likes of Liverpool’s very own Daniel Sturridge at that time and just three less than Chelsea’s £32 million man, Eden Hazard. Despite playing over a thousand fewer minutes across the season than Downing, Moses only had 8 fewer shots than the Middlesbrough born winger in 2012/13. When looking back at the 2011/12 season, it can be seen that Moses took 69 shots with a 9% conversion rate. This highlights Moses’ confidence and ability to take and create more opportunities for him to unleash a shot at goal, something that Downing was renowned for shying away from and this may indicate the direct nature of Moses play. This could definitely improve a Liverpool team that has appeared reluctant to take a shooting opportunity when it has presented itself to them in recent seasons.
Creativity and Style of Play
*Refers to minutes played per chance or CCC created.
If anything the above statistics reinforce the evidence that Moses will bring a different dimension to the LFC attack when compared to Downing last year. Downing’s role in the Liverpool front three was often to hold the width to allow Suarez, and later on Daniel Sturridge, the space to exploit and create goals. This season, however, there has been a significant adaptation by Brendan Rodgers to this approach, which see’s Iago Aspas deployed on the right of the forward three, with him coming inside and often interchanging with both Sturridge and Coutinho to create a very fluid attacking unit. This requires each individual to have the technical and tactical ability to be a creative outlet for their side as well as have the attacking instincts to exploit any opportunities that may arise in the opponents defence, a skill set that Downing doesn’t fully possess. The difference in each players approach, can be seen in the contrasts between the number of dribbles they undertook over the whole season. In the 2012/13 season, Moses completed the same number of successful dribbles, albeit at a lower success rate than Downing, despite playing far fewer minutes. Moses tendency to dribble is further highlighted if you go back to his time at Wigan where he completed 95 successful dribbles, one every 34 minutes played. This may have been due to the fact that he was the team’s main offensive outlet so he took on the responsibility to get his team on the front foot, something that is quite admirable in a 20 year old. His dribbling success rate of 45.24% is higher than that of Gareth Bales during his stellar 2012/13 season (42.75%) and he succeeded with more significant dribbles, than both Bale (59) and Hazard (62) did last season.
An important part of Rodgers offensive system at Liverpool is the ability of each individual to carry both the goal scoring and also the creative burden for the team. In terms of creativity, Moses doesn’t stand out amongst such distinguished names. Across his two year stint from 2011 to 2013, Moses only laid on two assists for his team mates, and created only 9 clear cut chances (6 in 11/12 and 3 in 12/13) at an average of one CCC every 482 minutes of football. This does not stand up well in comparison to Downing’s 2012/13 season where he created 7 CCC for his team mates at a rate of one CCC every 313 minutes of football. Yet, Moses did manage to create a chance every 51.09 minutes of play during his time at Chelsea, something that is only slightly below Downing’s chance creation rate at Liverpool. It could easily be suggested that if Moses was transported in a more coherent attacking unit and offered more consistent game time, that he could improve on both these figures.
The final issue that Moses faces in joining Brendan Rodgers side is whether or not he can fit in to Rodgers style of play. Liverpool haven’t played the patient ‘tiki-taka’ football that everyone expected them to when they hired Rodgers from Swansea last summer, yet they do play with a high level of technical prowess with attacks often developing with swift interchanges of position within a fluid system. This is often followed by strategic bouts of intense pressure from the forward 3 in an effort to win the ball back. One area of concern for LFC fans, maybe Moses’ habit of getting dispossessed during his 2012/13 season, with Moses losing the ball every 59.16 minutes he played. This could be particularly worrying for a Liverpool side who, in recent times, have struggled with fast transitions and counter attacking moves that have left them short at the back, especially considering each fullbacks’ tendency to push on beyond the front three to add extra width. An area of Rodgers’ game plan that may suit Moses, is the need to win the ball back quickly to launch counter attacks high up the field. Moses is more adept at winning the ball back than Downing, in both the 11/12 (quite considerably in this instance) and the 12/13 seasons. This could be due to the fact that he has a strong frame, which he can use to shield the ball and force defenders off it. Finally having developed his game mainly under the tutelage and watchful eye of Roberto Martinez, he should have no issues fitting in with the technical requirements of Rodgers’ Liverpool.
Moses would undoubtedly be an improvement to Liverpool’s offensive options, and offer more to the team than Downing could in the same situation. His ability to run at, and past, people will be greatly valued by Rodgers, as well as his ability to get his shots away and win the ball back. There are, as with any young player, areas of concern. Moses doesn’t particularly stand out in terms of chance creation or chance conversion, yet he is still a young player and both these traits have the potential to improve with regular playing time. His tendency to lose the ball should be of greater concern considering Liverpool’s problems in this area, yet Rodgers is also a proven operator in the improvement of young undervalued talent, just look at the transformation of Coutinho and Sturridge since their arrivals on Merseyside.
Sturridge is a good example of an individual, who was considered ‘selfish’ and a ‘liability’ in offence, can be moulded into a significant attacking threat. So if Rodgers can weave his magic Moses could, potentially, become a top player in the future. The main issue that faces LFC is the fact that, with potentially no option to buy clause in Moses’ loan deal, they may invest time and effort in improving a young player without reaping the benefits once he develops. Yet, if Rodgers can squeeze the best out of Moses in the upcoming months for a serious charge at Champions League football, then Liverpool will certainly become a more attractive prospect for the top attacking talent at home and abroad that Rodgers has been craving. This could then easily be considered a win-win situation for both club and player. All in all Moses certainly has the potential to be a good player for Liverpool this season, but to be ‘great’, only glory on the Anfield Road will decided that.