When the plaudits were being handed out at Stamford Bridge following Chelsea’s commanding 3-1 win over Newcastle United this weekend, Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and even Alvaro Morata would have been first in line.
Admittedly, the aforementioned trio gave solid performances; the Belgian was at his menacing best, netting a double and duly proving why he’s the champions’ most important player, the magnificent Fabregas continued to show how brilliant he can be when the shackles are off, while the baby-faced Morata scored his customary headed goal for the Pensioners.
Yet, Moses was also outstanding, and didn’t play like someone who was making his first start in seven weeks after missing out through a hamstring injury that’d ruled him out since Chelsea’s 2-1 derby defeat at Crystal Palace.
In his absence, the West London club toiled as they struggled through the autumn to find a balance to their play. Performances and results were Jekyll-and-Hyde-like, and Antonio Conte would probably be forgiven if he was caught pulling his newly fashioned hair out of its artificially constructed roots.
Of course, it’s a bit too simplistic to imply the Stamford Bridge club would have done better had the Nigeria international been available and fit as a fiddle, with the injury to N’Golo Kante significantly handicapping the champions.
The energetic midfielder is a vital component of the Italian’s 3-4-3 system, and the side were poorer in his absence. With Danny Drinkwater also not fully fit and Tiemoue Bakayoko struggling to adapt to playing in a new league, Chelsea were sitting ducks and it showed in their performances.
Conte, clearly hamstrung, deployed a midfield two of Fabregas and Bakayoko (both whom have a natural inclination to attack) and left the side imbalanced as teams cut through them like a hot knife through butter; case in point – the double-header against AS Roma.
Both games against the I Giallorossi clearly showed the importance of Kante, not to mention Moses. Both players’ absence was also apparent as Chelsea struggled to a 4-2 win against Watford, as the Hornets exposed the gaping holes in the champions’ ranks.
This isn’t also a dig at Davide Zappacosta, Chelsea’s summer signing who was tasked with replacing the dreadlocked Nigerian. The Italian, it has to be said, doesn’t have the same chemistry with Cesar Azpilicueta as Moses and there were clearly growing pains in their young working relationship.
Also, it must be noted that it’s still the Italy international’s maiden season at the club and he’s obviously got a whole lot more to do to adapt to playing football at a higher level.
If there’s been a slight criticism of Moses since his shift to a wing-back role, it’s been a lack of an end product to all his industry. This certainly wasn't the case against the Magpies, as he combined diligence and work rate with more than just a threat this time.
There was purpose and a certain level of intensity to his running all game long and credit should be given to him for not putting the brakes on for the whole duration of the game.
He set up Morata to put his side 2-1 up and won the penalty that made sure of the points.
Moses also had the beating of Matt Ritchie (who it has to be said, was playing in an unfamiliar wing-back role) all game and forced the Scot back with his attacking intent which was unsurprising too as Chelsea sought to isolate the out-of-position wideman with the direct-running Moses time and again.
Besides being a threat going forward, Moses also put in a shift in the less fancied aspects; he won three tackles over the course of the game, which was level with Kante’s output and bettered only by Fabregas.
He also made three blocks, which was a game high, and more than all other Blues’ defenders combined.
The West African superstar was no slouch in the air either, and won two aerial duels whilst making the same number of interceptions in what was a complete all-round performance – with the only bad moment coming in stoppage time of the second half, when he sent a looping back pass into his box that caused a bit of confusion.
Yet, it was much better than the wideman’s midweek cameo in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Swansea City where he seemed badly off the pace.
The stars seem to be aligning for Chelsea and Antonio Conte as they move into Winter.
Players are returning from injuries at the right time while certain key figures (including Hazard) seem to hitting their best form as well. With a reasonable easy-looking schedule to come over the busy festive period, could Moses and Chelsea have more reasons to smile as they seek to revive a previously stuttering title challenge?