Several Chelsea players have come and gone but many are enigmas in the way they shape their Chelsea career and Marcos Alonso is one of them. A definition of a conundrum, Marcos Alonso provides Chelsea fans mixed feelings and leaves the question of whether to praise his accomplishments at the club or highlight the performances that hinders fans to completely sing and appreciate the Spaniard. Let’s take a deeper look at Marcos Alonso’s career and his current run at Chelsea Football Club.
Marcos Alonso’s Rich family history
Form a lineage of pure prestige, Marcos Alonso precedes his grandfather’s footsteps in playing for top clubs such as Real Madrid and playing for the Spanish National team. Marcos Alonso Imaz, his grandfather enjoyed an 8 year run with Los Blancos whereas his father played for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Quick summary of his club career
Before we dive into his Chelsea career lets share some of his stats and short stints at his former clubs. He only made one appearance for his home club when he was called up by Manuel Pellegrini to the main squad in a match against Racing de Santander. He was substituted off for Gonzalo Higuain in the 90th minute in a 2-0 victory. He joined Bolton Wanderers shortly after for an undisclosed fee. His first goal for Bolton was in March of 2012 helping Bolton defeat Wolverhampton Wanderers in a 3-2 win. He would go on to perform well on a consistent basis for them and was voted ‘player of the year’ in The Bolton News at the end of the 2012-13 season. He followed up with 4 more goals in his stint for Bolton. In his next club, Fiorentina, Alonso made 9 appearances before going on-loan shortly after to Sunderland and helped them retain their top-flight status making 20 appearances. He cemented his role as left-back after his loan ended back in Italy as a wingback and flourished under the purple kit.
Arrival to Chelsea
We finally get to his Chelsea career and what he has accomplished at the blues. After a late transfer in 2016, for a fee of around 24 million, Marcos Alonso joined Chelsea. His debut came in a 4-2 win in the EFL Cup at the King Power Stadium helping Chelsea defeat the reigning Premier League champions, Leicester City. He made his league appearance for Chelsea in a 3-0 loss vs Arsenal which changed the tide of Chelsea that season. After that poor performance against their London rivals, Antonio Conte switched to back 3 cementing a 3-4-3 formation that would, later on, win them the league. Marcos Alonso became a key player being the first-choice left wing-back with Victor Moses as a right wing-back. He scored 6 goals in all competitions and jotted 3 assists in that season.
Antonio Conte looked to strengthen the left wing-back position after winning the league in the 2016-17 season with Alex Sandro being the most linked player. A deal never went through with Juventus asking price being too high and Chelsea were forced to panic buy with Davide Zappacosta being the only recruitment as a wingback. Alonso was the only option when Antonio Conte switched originally to back 3 only relying upon Kennedy at times to play as LWB but never gave Alonso a run for his money. This stayed the case until Chelsea bought Emerson from Roma in the 2018 January transfer window for €20 million-plus €9 million bonus but never got his feet running that season with injuries and knocks hindering his chance to shine. Marcos Alonso’s poor form under Maurizio Sarri put his position in a doubt for the first time in his Chelsea career with Emerson looming over his shoulder. Sarri was quick to praise Alonso with a bold statement that said, “maybe the best left-back in the world” but ever since that statement Alonso had been on a decline performance-wise.
Each player has their own fortes and each has their Achilles heel. For Marcos, his prowess in the final third under Antonio Conte significantly made Chelsea a real threat with talent on the wings and having the likes of Hazard and Diego Costa in the front line. Teams were not used to conventional back 3 and this change of lineup strived the Blues to go on a 13-game league winning streak. in this formation, Marcos Alonso was given the freedom to get further in the box and was constantly cutting infield with little worry leaving his position. He had protection from behind with Kante & Matic in a double pivot and a back 3 that usually stayed behind.
In the 3-4-3 formation, Chelsea created often overloads on the wide areas and with teams that usually have a four-man defense found it hard to mark every Chelsea player. On attack, Chelsea would have a 3-2-5 formation leaving someone open and that person would usually be Marcos Alonso. Not only was his left foot a danger to oppositions from inside the box, but Marcos also displayed his threat from free-kicks when he scored a beauty against Bournemouth. He also has an eye for making a lot of key passes. Alonso’s creativity notched him 24 key passes in the 2016-17 season and with 38 the following year. Having Eden Hazard might’ve helped Marcos in being unmarked but his sense to get forward and hunger for goal is what propelled Chelsea to be deadly on the wings. His off the ball runs also enabled his teammates to lay off key passes in the final third that would produce a shot on target or a dangerous ball inside the box.
He sustained a 25% conversion rate on his free-kicks in the 17/18 season which was remarkable with them being not too far from the goal, his accurate left foot provided the blues valuable goals including his free-kick against Spurs in the second game of the Premier League 17/18 season. He scored a brace that day giving the blues the victory showing his full repertoire. A very unique and probably one of a kind wing-back, not many players resemble the Spaniard in terms of qualities. Mario Mandžukić is a player with a similar skill set, who is tall and has a strong eye for goal. The defensive work rate might be the key difference between the two with Mandžukić being striker-turned winger/wingback willingly showing his work rate on the defensive phase of the game. Alonso free-kick threat is another aspect that could attract potential suitors to inquire about the 29-year-old.
The conventional good fullback or wing-back are known for their width runs down the flank, and putting in strong crosses in the box. However, for Alonso, he is not really known for dribbling past defenders nor crossing it frequently in the opposition box. Marcos only has a 0.6 cross per 90 minutes which is only the 57th highest amongst wingbacks in Europe top 5 leagues. His completion rate is only the 74th highest with a 19.3 completion rate percentage. The lack of acceleration also hinders Alonso to keep up with pacey wingers and often puts him in sticky situations. He also a knack for being dormant and letting players get in behind him off the ball. Several examples of this are shown when he despicably left his man get behind him against Manchester City leaving Bernardo Silva open which led to the opening goal in just 35 seconds. Another example is Alonso not marking his man on a set-piece against Liverpool earlier in the season that also led to a goal. He continued to show signs of relapse on the defensive end last year when Sarri changed from 3-4-3 to a traditional 4-3-3 formation. Marcos initially was given the spot as first-choice left-back under Sarri but quickly demonstrated he wasn’t up to the task. Eden Hazard had a hard time linking up with the Spaniard with Marcos wasting several key chances. Eden Hazard even displayed his frustration during a game vs Tottenham in the Carabao Cup in the 2018-19 season. His tenacity of giving away dumb fouls also with the most recent was against Manchester United tripping Daniel James for a penalty.
The chart above displays Alonso stats displays several statistics that include OP shots per 90 minutes which is incredibly high but in the way Chelsea attack back in the 16/17 and 17/18 season he flourished the chance to get a shot on target. His tall physique helps him be strong in the air but his successful tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes were at a low 24 percentage. Having a strong IQ inside the final third is important for fullbacks/wing-backs and stated earlier Marcos Alonso usually doesn’t have the right decision in him often or not messing up the play in the final third. His final delivery can be weary and frustrating for fans to witness especially when it’s in a pivotal moment of the match. Another poor tendency he displays is jogging back on defense which is unacceptable especially on counters when your team is on the back foot.
What’s his current status on the Chelsea squad?
With only a short amount of playing time this season, Marcos Alonso has only provided 1 goal and 3 assists in 14 appearances. He has played 8 Premier League matches, 4 Champion League matches, and 2 EFL Cup games and has shown inconsistency in his game. One of his strong performances from the 29-year-old came recently against Spurs where Frank Lampard outsmarted his former coach with a 3-4-3 formation outplaying Tottenham throughout the whole match. His only goal came in a crucial moment when Chelsea were having trouble penetrating Newcastle’s defense scoring the only goal of the game. Over the last month, the left-back position has been a huge question mark with Frank Lampard having to deploy Cesar Azpilicueta at that position despite having both Emerson and Alonso being fit. Since the Spurs game in late December, a back injury has kept Alonso out of the squad with Emerson and Azpilicueta rotating the left-back position. His weaknesses became more exposed in a back four where wingers took joy taking Alonso in 1v1 situations. He doesn’t have the pace nor acceleration to overlap quickly but does make a good challenge when needed to. Chelsea have been linked with several names including, Ben Chilwell, Alex Telles, and Nathan Aké all being rumored to a switch to the blues.
Frank Lampard most likely will seek a new left-back in the summer transfer window with Ben Chilwell not looking likely to leave in January. Marcos Alonso has been rumored to a move to Inter Milan where he might look to reunite with his old manager, Antonio Conte, which he had much success under him. Another possible destination for the 29-year-old is Barcelona, being linked to Spanish giants since 2018 with their backline aging and looking for defensive recruitment. Alonso’s future remains in doubt especially since we’re in the midst of the January transfer window and will not know for certain until the window closes. One thing is for certain is that he’s been a key figure for Chelsea despite his poor performances with his key goals helping the London side. For now, he’s a good choice to go to if a team requires wing backs, a position that allows him freedom in the final third but as a week in and week left-back, that requires diligence and attentiveness Alonso isn’t on top of the pecking order. Chelsea will need to address this issue in the summer and most likely look to sell Alonso while his value is still worth cashing in.
Sources: fotmob app, transfermark.com, whoscored.com, thefutebolist, onefootball app, Premier League app. Chelsea FC.com, Getty Images, Stratadata.