Finally, with an announcement which had been somewhat redeemed by Romelu Lukaku embracing documenting meal times’ tradition, Internazionale announced they’d gotten their man. It will be more accurate to describe him as the man of Antonio Conte, however. This is, after all, the next time that the prior Juventus and Chelsea manager has descended, flaming wings flayed, to deliver Victor Moses from a very personal hell. Their two seasons together at Stamford Bridge saw both men in their best: the Nigeria international chugging down the line on the best, and Conte puffing and hooting about the sideline (as is his wont) en route to an improbable but nonetheless record-setting title success. The decision to cast Moses as a wing-back from the system that appears to be the manager’s first-choice wasn’t one that is obvious from the start. He had, prior to Conte’s coming, suffered a somewhat frustrating time with the Blues: injuries, unedifying loans and, to cap it all, the cold shoulder from Jose Mourinho who, as England international Harry Winks has learnt this year, isn’t given to explaining his reasons for mistrusting a specific player.
In that light, it must have been a relief in maintaining Moses around that, instead of dismissing him out-of-hand because his predecessor had done, Conte saw value. “At the onset of the year I said to the club that I had to have a look at him because I wanted to check him with my own eyes,” he said at the moment. “I’m happy to have him in our group. He’s an excellent player and a fantastic guy also, which is important for me personally.” Re-tooled and for the first time since joining from Wigan Athletic, properly incorporated, Moses was a menacing presence scampering ahead for Chelsea, he and Marcos Alonso crucial in extending opponents by forming basically a front five in attack (together with the centre-forward along with the two inside-forwards). It was, and is (as Kwadwo Asamoah, that has twice completed the responsibility for Conte sides attests) a demanding role. “It takes a great deal of physical energy to do this task,” he admits. “Conte wants the wing-backs, each time we have the ball, we need to be as forward as you can, in which the attackers are. For us wing-backs, whenever there’s something to do and shield whenever there’s something to defend. Occasionally, it’s even time to shoot on goal.” It was a role to which Moses’ natural athleticism and fitness were eminently suited, and his effectiveness sparked not only a Premier League title, but also a resurgence of the back three in the Premier League. If imitation was not a decent form of flattery, then forcing Mourinho’s Manchester United to defend with a back six whenever they crossed paths must have been particularly satisfying for the then 25-year-old.
They reunite in surroundings that are different, when Conte had his eureka moment midway at the Emirates Stadium, and the situation is quite a departure from September 2016. Inter are by no means in dire straits: certainly, the improbable draw against Lecce at the weekend saw the gap to Juventus extend to four points on very top of Serie A, but for the most part the Beneamata have chugged along very well all season. Five draws is a whole lot, but only within the context of pursuing a hegemonic behemoth such as the Old Lady. In the final analysis, Moses has been brought in to satisfy the calling of Conte, a habit that has manifested itself in every work so far in his career. The only real thing the likes more than brand new signings is whining about not getting signings, and it is.
Antonio Candreva continues to be among Inter’s more remarkable performers this term and, even accounting for the fact that the highly-rated Valentino Lazaro has not really hit the heights that were due to him, the coming of Ashley Young could have sufficed to address any possible shortfall at wing-back anyway. Essentially, Moses is an act of pacifism from the owners. But, there is a sense in which the Nigeria international is the Trojan horse. When Inter made the play for Conte summer, it was understood his remit was to break Juventus’ dominance. To that end, the team moved through a outlay in the transfer market besides the wages for his backroom and the manager. In came Romelu Lukaku, the striker he had sought for so long while in Chelsea; Stefano Sensi, Antonio Barella, Diego Godin, Alexis Sanchez–there was little expense spared to provide the resources, both concerning vitality and expertise, needed for the job. A moderate injury crisis in midfield in October and November saw concerns raised over depth and sent Conte off on another rant. There has been a deliberate effort to address his displeasure; if anything, the club has gone: what, you would like a wing-back, Antonio? Here, have two! If Inter fail to reel in Juventus and fall farther behind, there may be no question whatsoever as to whose table the buck will stop at. It will be nobody else’s, and Conte’s shortcoming. It’s a great thing, beyond the connection, there is a sense of residual loyalty toward the Italian on Moses’ part. In him made all the difference the faith Conte revealed.”I want to pay off the confidence of the supervisor,” he said at the moment. Using Conte backing him to be the lasso that reels Juventus in, the stakes are even higher.