On the strength of the performances of Victor Moses and Alex Iwobi in pre season, it does not quite seem like either will offer anything new when the season proper gets underway.
Moses was the most improved player on the Chelsea payroll last season; if not the entire Premier League.
His conversion from a winger to a wing-back was ingenious and it proved rewarding for Antonio Conte as the club secured the league title, winning a record 30-matches in the process and also reaching the FA Cup final.
Moses scored 4 goals in all competitions; one more than he managed back in 2012/13 season in a Chelsea jersey.
His overall numbers last season might even see him reach the last three shortlist of the 2017 African footballer of the year.
In the national team, the 26-year-old’s goal against Algeria in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Uyo and performances in one other game since 2016 leaves no one in doubt that he’s in the top three best performing Nigerian players.
Similarly for Alex Iwobi, last season started started off with a bang.
Arsene Wenger is known to promote his academy players, but holding down a first team place ahead of proven stars like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott was interesting and at just 20, refreshing.
Like Moses, Iwobi didn’t turn in the numbers in goals, but overall his contribution was not bad.
However, unlike Moses, Iwobi switched off, overwhelmed at some point and was a shadow of the winger, who shun against Barcelona in the second-leg UEFA Champions League quarter final match in 2016; earning him a first team place the next season.
He was frequently dropped to the bench and all together shut out of the team in the last days of the league as Arsenal struggled, stuttered and labored in futility to secure a champions league spot.
They did get the consolation of the FA Cup victory, beating Chelsea in the final – Iwobi was on the bench again.
The success story or near success of both players does not define their ultimate abilities, but allows a clear glimpse of what would pass for breakthroughs.
Weeks later they’re back to their respective teams and as expected each is involved in pre season with the first team.
To be named in the pre season squad is a testament of belief from the Manager. To remain there shows discipline and to an extent positive reviews of performance.
And to get selected for every game is a two way question of proving you’re very much indispensable in the period under review and of definite import to the season ahead.
Moses featured in all four pre-season games for Chelsea. From the pounding of Fulham and Arsenal, to the club’s hapless showing against Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.
He was a standout player against the Bavarians and deployed in two different positions against the Nerazzurri.
Iwobi did not wait for an invitation to perform in pre season after his slump in the tail end of 2016/17.
Assists in his first two matches; including one for new boy Alexander Lacazette preceded a rifled shot to the roof of the net in Arsenal’s 5-2 win against Benfica in the Emirates Cup.
Goals, assists and versatility are good punters for any player in pre season, but small details like completed passes, final ball and key decisions during that and real match situations is where the jury awaits the duo.
No matter how improved their performances, Moses and Iwobi still lack finesse in the area of those little details and ultimately haven’t earned the rights to be considered top players.
Next season, the battle for honors will be stiff and as is evident in the transfer activities of the clubs, the main consideration for buying is “top quality”.
This means both Nigerian internationals must step up their game, show desire, improve the craft and be more than just a consideration but key to their teams.
At the moment, both are barely holding their places, particularly for Moses if Antonio Conte eventually gets his prime targets in that side back position.
Iwobi’s case is not safe, in fact it’s less safe if Arsene Wenger decides to go with the 3-4-3 strategy and also manages to retain the services of Alexis Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The assumption is that Moses and Iwobi are giving average performances and are average players – some may argue even less – but can they step it up? Certainly they can.
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