It is no secret that Chelsea have suffered on the left side of their backline since the departure of veteran Ashley Cole. Current Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta stepped up to the task when he joined the Blues, but the Spaniard appeared more comfortable on the right-hand side, despite solid performances at left-back. During the second managerial spell of opinion-splitter Jose Mourinho, Brazilian Filipe Luis joined the club and accompanied Chelsea’s side to their fourth Premier League title, but the lightning-quick defender struggled to find his feet at Stamford Bridge, and rarely featured in the starting 11. The Brazilian departed after a lacklustre season in blue, returning to the red side of Madrid, where he had enjoyed a terrific spell prior to his London move.
Chelsea later acquired the services of then Fiorentina wing-back Marcos Alonso for £24m. The Spaniard was one of Chelsea’s keys to success during their dominant campaign in 2016/17, where manager Antonio Conte secured the league title in his debut season. Alonso impressed the fans with his energetic runs forward and his wonderful crosses that were often poked home by talisman Diego Costa but struggled to keep his momentum during the following season, which saw Chelsea finish 5th.
Fast forward to January 2018, and Conte brought Emerson Palmieri to the club, for a fee of £20m + add ons. The Italian secured an assist in his first Chelsea game, causing the Chelsea faithful to take a certain liking to the pacey defender. Emerson has now played 52 games in all competitions for Chelsea but has only got 6 goal involvements under his belt, compared to Alonso’s 39 in 140 appearances.
Rumours are circulating that Chelsea are looking to bring in a new long term left-back, due to the unreliable left-hand side. With an arrival looking imminent, it is unlikely that Lampard will want to keep 3 left-backs at the club, especially when the two current options offer very little defensively. In Marcos Alonso’s case, the Spaniard performs admirably when situated at wing-back in a back three, a position in which he thrived in Antonio Conte’s first season. Nonetheless, he looks extremely uncomfortable in a back four and has often cost the Blues points throughout his career.
Alonso is terrific when going forward, and fans have previously stated that if his defensive attributes improved, he would make a very strong player, and would be one of the first names on the teamsheet. This, however, is not the case, and Alonso’s clumsiness along with poor defensive decision making means he is not favoured by Chelsea fans. On average, Alonso makes 1.91 interceptions per game, as well as 1.89 tackles won. The Spaniard makes 3.48 passes into the final third per game, registering 17 assists for the blues. Alonso can be phenomenal as a wing-back, and when Lampard has preferred the 3-back approach, Marcos has performed admirably. With a first-choice left-back taking a high priority spot on the shortlist, Alonso could be the perfect back-up, especially with the system options Frank has at his disposal.
Emerson has often been favoured over Alonso by Chelsea fans, particularly last season, but part of this movement was purely down to a strong dislike of Alonso in the starting 11. The Italian suffered a hamstring injury in the later stages of 2019, which kept him out of the side for 6 games. Since his return, Alonso has still been preferred by Lampard and has capitalised on moments such as a goal against rivals Tottenham earlier on this season.
Emerson makes 1.86 interceptions per game, along with 1.12 tackles a game. He makes an average of 2.72 passes into the final third which puts him behind Alonso in that field. Emerson has a pass completion rate of 85.7% and a higher dribble success percentage with 60.8%. As stated, Emerson struggles more defensively than Alonso despite his more natural positioning and lack of mistakes, linking to Alonso’s favouritism. The 25-year-old has never really prospered at Chelsea and would perhaps be more suited elsewhere.
It has to be clarified that both players are strong footballers and on their day, can produce stand out performances that earn them future starts, but with a strong link to Chilwell arising recently, Lampard will have intentions to cash out on one of the two full-backs in order to keep the squad morale as high as possible. For this matter, I would suggest that Alonso is the player that should stay at the club, as he has more in his locker than his defensive counterpart, and with the system adaptations that will be required throughout next season to ensure players stay fit and motivated, the Spaniard fits the bill and will rise to the challenge. Alonso also has more experience, and with a Premier League winners medal to his name, will act as an effective mentor for our new left-back, should Chelsea follow their targets for next season.
Written by Mash Greaves.