There are two Marcos Alonsos.
The first is an erratic, hapless full-back, seemingly incapable of defending and prone to giving away needless fouls.
The second is a graceful, exciting wing-back, bombing down the flank with freedom and demonstrating his attacking prowess.
It is remarkable to think that one man can be so contrasting in two near identical positions, but when it comes to Marcos Alonso, he is simply a different breed when playing further up the pitch.
Alonso has undoubtedly had his hardest season yet for Chelsea, since his arrival from Serie A side Fiorentina in 2016. Frozen out by Frank Lampard in the first month of the season, the Spaniard had never played fewer Premier League games – not even in his Sunderland and Bolton days.
Things looked bleak for the 30-year-old, but when all hope looked lost, his German guardian angel arrived.
When Thomas Tuchel was appointed as Chelsea manager at the end of January, not many would have predicted a revival for Alonso. The defender had not featured since his abysmal first half performance against West Bromwich Albion in September, but with Tuchel implementing a back three on his first day, the door flew back open.
Returning to the bench against Wolves, Alonso made his first appearance in four months against Burnley. He marked his comeback in style; a clean sheet and a win, capped off by a stunning goal to clinch a 2-0 victory for the Blues. He could not have made a better first impression, showing what he was capable of from the first whistle.
His standout display at Stamford Bridge earned him consecutive starts, as Alonso came up against his favourite opponents in the London derby against Tottenham. Another influential outing on the left flank saw another victory, helping Chelsea to a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday.
Alonso has been outstanding under Tuchel at left wing-back – and it is no surprise.
In 154 appearances in blue, Alonso has seen a split between his deployment at full-back and wing-back. A glance at the numbers shows clear preference and strength.
|Alonso at left-back||Alonso at left wing-back|
|Goal contributions (goals + assists)||14||26|
|Points per game||1.97||2.12|
Playing as a wing-back leads into every one of Alonso’s strengths: his finishing, his attacking drive and desire to get forward and create chances. He is a forward stuck in a defender’s restraints, but when he is let loose, the Spaniard is arguably one of the finest wing-backs in the game.
Alonso has already found his place in Tuchel’s squad, a relief above all for the previous outcast. The new Chelsea manager has proven his fondness for a back three, and the results have followed suit, with the west Londoners picking up seven points from a possible nine in their opening trilogy under Tuchel.
At 30, Alonso is entering the twilight of his career. Had he continued in the same manner under Lampard, he would likely have left in search of first-team football this season. But thanks to Tuchel’s entrance, it is evident that Alonso still has a role to play at Stamford Bridge.
For as long as Tuchel favours a back three, Alonso is safe and sound at Chelsea.
While it is unlikely that we will see this unique formation for the duration of Tuchel’s reign, we know so far that the German is not afraid to deploy the attacking tactic. He is renowned for his tactical flexibility, both in shape and personnel, so expect a variety of formations to be used by Tuchel.
Of all the players in the squad, Alonso is best suited to a back three. While that assures him of his status at present, the next challenge is nailing down his place in the starting eleven, regardless of the tactics and philosophy.
You cannot forget that Chelsea are stacked at left-back. Alonso already competes with Ben Chilwell and Emerson for a place on the left flank, while Blues loanee Malang Sarr is also capable of playing there. Add the versatile César Azpilicueta into the equation and competition is clearly tight, with an overflow of suitable options at Tuchel’s disposal.
The performances must be there, and Alonso has to prove himself in the long-term. After all, it was a run of inconsistency and complacency that cost him his place in Lampard’s plans, albeit before a dramatic revival.
Alonso has a crucial few months in store, ones which would decide his future at the club. But whatever the outcome, the second chance to prove himself will not go wasted.
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Thomas Tuchel on first win, Timo Werner and Marcos Alonso
Strong Chelsea showing produces statement win for Thomas Tuchel