From being shunned by Jose Mourino and previous Blues managers and loaned out on three separate occasions, Victor Moses is now a focal point for the league leaders.
Such a turnaround culminated in Moses winning the PFA Premier League Player of the Month award for November. The award is voted for by fans and thus always open to manipulation, and more likely to favour players at clubs with the biggest fanbases.
But for Moses to win it ahead of players like Sergio Aguero sums up his dramatic resurgence this season.
At the heart of Moses’ rebirth lies his manager Antonio Conte – and if we can draw any underlying themes from this Premier League season so far, one must surely be that good old fashioned training ground coaching still has its place in modern football.
Rather than go out and spend hundreds of millions on new players, the managers at the top of the table, Conte and Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool in particular, are demonstrating the value of innovative coaching.
Working with what you have rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Moses is a perfect example. Deployed as a right wing-back in Conte’s 3-4-3, this repositioning has allowed the Nigerian to utilise his key strengths – pace, strength, direct running and stamina – whilst offering the team tactical flexibility and greater discipline in defensive situations. The stats show the extent of Moses’ improvement this season. Defensively, he’s making a greater impact than at almost any other point in his career.
In 13 appearances Moses is averaging 0.9 tackles per game – a figure rarely bettered in his last eight league seasons and only once significantly, by the 1.7 tackles per game he averaged while on loan at Stoke in 2014/15.
His defensive awareness is growing. Moses is averaging 1.2 interceptions per game – a career best and more than double his output at West Ham last season (0.5 per game) and treble that at Liverpool in 2013/14 (0.4 per game).
The Nigerian is also making far more clearances per game under Conte, understandably given his more defensive role.
More good news for Chelsea fans is that this greater defensive input hasn’t come at a cost to Moses’ natural attacking instincts.
The Nigerian has already scored three goals – half way to his Premier League career best having played 25 fewer games. One assist also puts him in a reasonable position to better his career high of three assists in a season while at Stoke and Wigan.
An average of 1.2 shots per game means Moses has also increased his efficiency in front of goal. Less shots, more goals.
And he’s seeing more of the ball, too. A 27.2 pass average per game outweighs the number of passes he’s made in any season in the last eight years and is more than double the number of passes he made while at West Ham last season.
Having emerged as a key player at Chelsea thanks to this exceptional – and in a sense surprising – run of form, Moses now faces one major challenge: avoiding injury.
The holiday season has not been kind to the 25-year-old in recent years. Moses missed 14 games in 2014/15 over the Christmas and Easter periods with a thigh problem and eight games over December and March last season due to hamstring complaints.
After Nigeria failed to qualify for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations, if he can overcome these seasonal niggles, the coming months offer the Premier League’s most improved player an opportunity to cement his place in Chelsea’s title challenge, which continues to gain pace.