Victor Moses must find fulfilment in reduced Chelsea role

Victor Moses
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The Community Shield will tell us more, but already it looks like the Nigeria international will play a back-up role under Maurizio Sarri

COMMENT    By Solace Chukwu     Follow on Twitter

While the FA Community Shield may have come to feel like just another warm-up game for the new season, albeit one that comes with silverware, the stakes are very real for Chelsea.

Manchester City will go into 2018/2019 as favourites, having swept all before them in the second season under Pep Guardiola. For the Blues, however, there are a number of variables to grapple with: a new manager, for one, who brings with him a different style and system.

This all means that, for Victor Moses, there is uncertainty once more following two seasons of heady relevance.

Maurizio Sarri, while perhaps not as slavishly wedded to that shape as some might think, has shown the intent to transition Chelsea to a 4-3-3, away from Antonio Conte's 3-4-2-1.

It is not an overly radical shift: move the wing-backs back a few yards, and nudge the centre half forward by the same token and you have a 4-3-3. However, while in Conte's system, the presence of three centre-backs meant an outright winger like Moses could be accommodated, a back four would probably necessitate a specialist full-back.

Maurizio Sarri Chelsea 2018-19

To his credit, the 27-year-old has grown defensively since taking on the role of right wing-back, showing greater physicality in duels, improved positioning and heightened awareness at the back post. However, it would be a stretch to envision him as an actual full-back. Instead, it is more likely that, if he is to feature under Sarri, he will have to do so as a forward.

That realization brings with it an uncomfortable truth: Moses will be nowhere near as influential at Stamford Bridge as he has been under Conte. It is worth noting that, up while the former Juventus boss fiddled with a back four early on in his Chelsea tenure, the Nigeria international was firmly on the fringes of the team.

Victor Moses | 2017-18 Premier League stats

In the wide areas, the Blues have a number of players ahead of Moses in the pecking order: Willian and Pedro on the right, and Eden Hazard on the left.

Ironically, while the left is less congested, it also features the least fungible component of the playing staff. Hazard is the club's talisman, and it now appears that Real Madrid will not push ahead with an expected bid for the Belgian.

Eden Hazard Chelsea 2017-18

That leaves just the right flank. Willian is very much first choice, and is a more rounded player than Moses. Pedro lacks the Brazilian's skillset, but is eminently efficient and gets into great goalscoring positions, in addition to scoring the odd screamer.

However, Willian seems to be demand so far this summer, with Barcelona reportedly making multiple bids before settling on compatriot Malcom from Bordeaux. Jose Mourinho remains a long-term admirer, of course, and is believed to be keen to bolster his forward line. That would, in theory, make it one less obstacle for Moses to surmount.

That theory does not reckon with the recent rise to prominence of youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi though.

Only 17, he has shone blindingly in preseason, with reports suggesting Chelsea want to keep him. That would certainly make a break from the norm at Stamford Bridge where young players are concerned, and might compromise Moses' chances further.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

There may be a ten-year gap in experience between them, but the sense is that spending so long in a defensive capacity has somewhat dulled the Nigerian’s attacking instincts. Hudson-Odoi, with his precocity and direct dribbling both on the inside and the outside is, in many ways, the player that Moses used to be.

Having had to content himself with substitute appearances so far in preseason, the Community Shield meeting with Manchester City will offer a window into Sarri's thinking.

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If Pedro keeps his starting place - which is likely, seeing as the manager likes to have one goalscoring wide option - then it would be difficult to envisage a situation whereby Moses would be in with a shout for any more than a bit-part role.

The best-case scenario would be appearances in the domestic cups and the Europa League. This offers a modicum of comfort for the winger: Sarri pointedly treated the Champions League's ugly sibling with disdain during his time in Italy, and may do so again and opt for rotation.

The sheer volume of games to get through means that Moses ought to get enough minutes, albeit not as much as he did over the last two seasons. That, unfortunately, is the new reality he might have to grapple with.