Tag Archives: Victor Moses

Moses and Mikel to the fore as Act Two brings revenge for Chelsea

10 Nov

Last night’s Capital One Cup clash between Chelsea and Manchester United saw the Blues obtain a measure of revenge for their recent league defeat – Goal Nigeria reports on a match refreshingly high on action and low on complaint.
No one was quite sure what the sequel would bring. No one knew for certain whether the tensions born on Sunday would bubble over and explode. No one could say precisely how these two giants of the English game would approach a cup tie where both had everything to lose.
The only certainty was that no one wanted a repeat of Sunday’s debacle, where the goals flew in and the action occasionally inspired, but the enduring taste was sour. Their league tie brought controversy and ugliness; nobody wants a sustained focus on a referee, and nobody wants to see allegations flying around of the ilk that Chelsea F.C. levelled at Mark Clattenburg following Sunday’s defeat.
Fortunately, yesterday’s battle was free of injustice and complaint, liberated from the controversies and inequalities that have come so readily to association with these two great clubs in recent times. Once again we were treated to high-end drama, but this time it came not in the gestures, cards, (and allegedly the words) of a referee, but at the twinkling toes of Daniel Sturridge, the effortless anticipation of Javier Hernandez, or the extraordinary awareness of Eden Hazard.
At the final whistle, Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo spoke of ‘justice’ – a 5-4 victory in the cup erasing the perceived wrongs of a 3-2 defeat in the league. Ramires’s glorious finish in extra time cancelling out Chicharito’s offside goal on Sunday, young Scott Wootton’s errors in defence helping fans forget about Branislav Ivanovic’s dismissal, and Chelsea’s penalties last night ‘justice’ for Fernando Torres’s dubious red.
The Chelsea boss will have been delighted to have witnessed the impact of Victor Moses, enjoying a rare start for his new side. The Nigerian forward was one of the key protagonists in an enthralling encounter. Among the many young players on show, he was arguably the most impressive – constantly troubling United’s defenders with characteristic direct running and ferocious rapidity; it took an impressive stop from Anders Lindegaard to keep the frontman off the scoresheet, but the damage had already been done, panic befalling Alex Buttner in the first half forcing him to illegally halt the Nigerian vortex.
But Moses hasn’t been the only Super Eagle to have impressed recently. As reported by Goal Nigeria’s own Babajide Alaka, Jamie Redknapp in his capacity as a Sky Sports pundit has been quick to lavish praise on John Obi Mikel. In a week where the midfielder’s name has been associated with racism and controversy, it’s encouraging to hear some praise for his on-field activity. While his influence was brief last night, being withdrawn before the break, the midfielder has been proving recently that he can be the reliable rock that allows Chelsea’s artists to conjure and create in front of him. Like his predecessor in the role, Claude Makélélé, Mikel is showing himself to be a crucial component in any Chelsea success.
Moses was one of several Pensioners’ players to commend his team’s supporters after the game, praising them for their comportment, and looking forward to a Quarter Final tie with Leeds United up in West Yorkshire. However, a gentle footnote to the evening was made, depressingly, in the form of a Chelsea fan’s racist gesture apparently aimed at Danny Welbeck. The last thing the club needs now, after the trauma of Terry and the commotion of Clattenburg, is one of their own undertaking such a public act of idiocy. We are presented with an ugly irony; the growing influence of two Nigerians, and the sustained racism associated with the Blues.
But, for now at least, let us linger on a brighter evening for the superclub of West London; let us enjoy the whirling triangles of their attack, a sense of the sequel’s redemption, and the comprehensive contributions of two of Nigeria’s favourite sons.
The Champions of Europe, they know what they, but at this rate, they may be adding the League Cup to their extended honours list.
Ed Dove

An evaluation of Nigeria’s squad ahead of their clash with Liberia this Saturday

10 Nov

An evaluation of Nigeria’s squad ahead of their clash with Liberia this Saturday

With a place at the African Cup of Nations in South Africa on the table, West African ‘brothers’ Nigeria and Liberia come head to head in Calabar on Saturday. This article evaluates the men selected by Stephen Keshi to guide the Super Eagles to the Afcon, and considers their chances ahead of the upcoming crunch match. The attitude exuded from the camp has been bullish, and all in Nigeria hope that their boys will redeem themselves after a less than stellar first leg in the suburbs of Monrovia.
With both defences unimpressive in September, much will be expected of the two goalkeepers. Between the Nigerian sticks, Liberia’s strikers are likely to find Vincent Enyeama waiting for them; The Cat spreading himself far and wide, launching and imposing, punching and grasping, and protecting the goal like his life depended on it. Although that’s what they were meant to be expecting in the first leg, when an unfathomable lapse in concentration by the former Enyimba stopper gifted Sekou Oliseh an equaliser. Many will remember Enyeama’s glorious performances of years’ past; once, famously, reducing Lionel Messi to a snivelling, shrugging, stuttering wreck as he put on a goalkeeping masterclass to keep the Argentine starlet at bay.
It’s reasonable to fear that those days are behind the Nigeria number one now; blunders against Malawi and Liberia have begun to plant seeds of concern in the minds of spectators, enough so for the Maccabi Tel Aviv man to be legitimately considered an area of weakness for Liberia to expose. Alternatives do exist in the shape of Austin Ejide and Chigozie Agbim, but Saturday’s match may well offer Enyeama a golden opportunity to prove he can once more be a big game player for the Super Eagles.
By comparison, young Liberia keeper Nathaniel Sherman was resilient in the first leg, and the Nigerian forwards may need both invention and inspiration to defy him. In front of Enyeama, captain Joseph Yobo will be charged with keeping an eye on the galloping Sekou. The CSKA Moscow midfielder looked lively in the first leg, and his goal blew the tie wide open. Having begun his career in Ebedei, in Ogun State, Sekou knows all there is to know about Nigerian football – what greater motivation to cause an upset then the ability to silence thousands of your adopted countrymen? And for Yobo, what greater inspiration than a place at the continental high table in 2013 – at 32, how many more chances will he have?
In midfield, the addition of John Obi Mikel appears to have rendered all else irrelevant – that is if some news outlets are anything to go by. His return has ignited excitement in the fans, and uncovered hope in the hearts of fans disillusioned by Nigeria’s tepid display in the first leg. It’s impossible to argue that the Chelsea midfielder doesn’t have the biggest profile in the squad; he is Nigeria’s star, perhaps their talisman, a European champion, and, let’s face it, a player with the power to control the game and carry the Super Eagles beyond the reaches of the Lone Stars.
Mikel isn’t flawless, far from it, and indeed in recent years he has been much maligned by fans and reporters alike. Surely though, the colossal figure that he is, competing week in week out in the Premier League, should have too much about him to be troubled by his opposite numbers in the Liberia squad. I don’t wish to advocate arrogance nor complacency, but Naija fans should reasonably be able to assume that James Lomell or Isaac Pupo, playing their football in Indonesia or Malaysia respectively, are unlikely to give Mikel, at the peak of his powers, too many sleepless nights.
The inclusion of the Chelsea man also prompts the examination of some of the interesting internal dynamics that occur within the squad. All eyes will be on Keshi’s ability to meld together Obi Mikel, jetting in from West London, and talents such as Ejike Uzoenyi and Godfrey Oboabona, who play football for local clubs. Nosa Igiebor opened the scoring for Nigeria in the first leg after a counter attack by Victor Moses, and it will be fascinating to see whether the stability potentially offered by Mikel can give the young Betis midfielder a platform to create from.
Up front, Nigeria would seem to have the march on their West African rivals, although considerations can’t help but be made for those players not selected. Despite scoring the sole goal in Levante’s win against Valencia at the weekend, Oba Martins will once more be absent – a career reviving at the domestic stage, but not, as yet, in the green of Nigeria. John Utaka, the highest scorer in the Chinese league, is also missing, while Jude Aneke and Sone Aluko appear not to have performed well enough in recent games to warrant selection, for now at least.
Those chosen appear to have enough about them to strike fear into the hearts of Lone Star defenders. Ideye Brown’s terrific scoring rate at Dynamo Kyiv has continued this season, and the former Sochaux man appears to have taken to the Champions League like a duck to water, having scored in both the third qualifying round and in the play-offs. The Nigerian wonderkid Victor Moses is another striking option for Keshi, and after an impressive display in the first leg, looks to be one of the boss’s sharpest weapons. Moses too is enjoying a maiden season in the Champions League, having made his debut last week against Nordsjaelland, and will be looking to link up with another of the competition’s stars, Emmanuel Emenike, who scored a brace in a losing effort against Celtic last week. Ike Uchu, who missed a few good chances in the first leg, is also selected, and offers a different alternative up top.
Returning to the field after suspension with West Bromwich Albion this weekend, Peter Odemwingie is, however, missing from Nigeria’s selection. This writer fears that if Liberia prove difficult to break down on Saturday, or if Naija’s strikers fail to bring their shooting boots, the Soviet-born striker’s name may well be whispered longingly around the curves and cascades of the Akure Township Stadium.
Until then though, Keshi’s selection offers a keen blend of youth and experience, of pace and of power, of solidity, and of flair; enough, hopefully, to see the Super Eagles comfortably on the plane to South Africa 2013.
Ed Dove

Might Moses want to think twice about joining Chelsea’s ranks?

31 Aug

Might Moses want to think twice about joining Chelsea’s ranks?
This is the summer of Van Persie – of the long, the drawn-out, the duplicitous; it is the summer of Modric – promises claimed and broken, and foreign dreams in golden lands; it is the summer of Zlatan – of the exotic meeting l’exotique, and bona fide box office on the Champs-Élysées.
Comparatively, Victor Moses’s protracted move from Wigan to Chelsea has slipped under the radar, but it is a narrative followed acutely by Nigerians everywhere. After pledging loyalty to the Super Eagles, and impressing in his three appearances to date, all in Nigeria are hoping for the best for their latest attacking star.
But what is best for the boy?
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan certainly doesn’t believe the answer to be Chelsea. While hesitant to let his club’s brightest star leave, Whelan has conceded that if the price is right, then the youngster will be off. The initial asking price was £10 million, but that has gently dropped in the face of Chelsea obstinacy, and at the time of writing, a fee of £8.5 million looks likely to be settled upon.
This was always to be a summer (and a season) of transition for Chelsea. With Didier Drogba leaving along with Kalou and Bosingwa, new boss Roberto Di Matteo was charged with renewing and replenishing the squad with fresh talent; lowering the average age, and building a Chelsea that could compete comprehensively in the future.
While André Villas-Boas appears to have failed with a similar remit a year ago, Di Matteo has encouraged, if not inspired Chelsea supporters with a crop of exciting, young signings. Marko Marin’s move from Bremen was confirmed at the end of April, Eden Hazard joined on the 4th of June, and Brazil’s Olympic star Oscar signed on the 26th of July – a triad of young attackers that are primed to set the league alight, and threaten to trouble the game’s upper echelons for years to come.
The club are assembling an ineffable stable of young talent, but the question begs to be asked: Where and how do all of these young prospects fit into the ‘master plan’?
Don’t forget, Chelsea already have the sumptuous talents of Juan Mata, already established after a fairly impressive debut season, Daniel Sturridge, who shone for the early half of the year, but fell out of favour with Di Matteo, and will be looking to make up for lost ground, as well as the likes of Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda, still knocking around, and still hoping to contribute towards the goals this campaign.
This is without even beginning to consider the man who will likely spearhead the aforementioned. Fernando Torres has endured a well-documented torrid spell since moving to West London, but fans are hoping that maybe, just maybe, the dual successes of the Champions League and the European Championship will spur the Spaniard ‘back to his best’ this year.
Time will tell, and Chelsea fans also hope that it will allow Romelu Lukaku, so devastating in Belgium, so anonymous in England, to prove that he can be more than just a statuesque figure, that he can be the goal machine he was previously, and that one day, fingers crossed, the parallels with Drogba will be more than just optimism and aspiration.
Quite where Victor Moses fits into this myriad of identities is, for the time being, a mystery. While Chelsea are often bated for not having a glorious history, they do have quite a marvellous track record of pillaging and spurning young talent from those around them.
Haven’t we seen this kind of thing before?
Steve Sidwell and Scott Parker stagnated at the club, while the shadowy embers and faded promise of Shaun Wright-Phillips’s career lend credence to Whelan’s beseeching. Perhaps he is right, perhaps a few more years under the studied tutelage of Roberto Martinez, and a little while longer plying his trade in the provinces may stand Moses in a better stead to one day capitalise on his undoubted talent.
Still, it is encouraging to see Nigerians playing at the top levels of club competition. It will be, momentarily at least, exciting to see a Super Eagle in the blue of one of the country’s best, playing for the European Champions no less, and training daily alongside the international stars that populate the Chelsea dressing room.
Here is a player with untapped potential, one whose pace, strength, and technical ability are outstanding among those of his age group. Maybe it is for the best that he is able to cultivate and perfect that talent in the challenging atmosphere of Chelsea, being instructed by the world’s finest, and learning first hand how to improve the poor on-field decision making which is perhaps his only glaring weakness.
Chelsea’s number 31 at the moment is a young Frenchman, the young Gaël Kakuta. The club had hoped that by now, by his twenty first birthday, he would be known worldwide as one of the planet’s most exciting talents. They had hoped that he would be famous for more than just his arrival at Chelsea, when club and player apparently broke rules aplenty to broker the deal. Chelsea hoped that the boy once described as ‘a phenomenon’, and hand picked by Drogba as his ‘protégé’, would one day emerge from those murky origins and stake his claim at the West London club.
Kakuta debuted back in September 2009, back when Ancelotti was at the helm, as his ‘all-conquering’ pre-slump-self. He wowed fans with his trickery, his skill, and his determination…but little has been heard of him since. Loan spells at Fulham and Bolton didn’t quite deliver, and Kakuta finds himself back at Chelsea, back in the reserves, back on the bench.
Maybe Whelan has a point, and perhaps Moses ought to think twice before any deal is done.
Ed Dove
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