Alonso vs Emerson: Who gets the nod?

Emerson Palmieri and Marcus Alonso

It’s been little over a month now that Chelsea last played a game at home. Ever since, the world has been taken over by this pandemic that seems to be growing in magnitude with time. With no football whatsoever, the transfer/contract rumours are the only things that are keeping the fans active over social media.

One rumour that’s been gaining pace is Alex Telles to Stamford Bridge. Now, it’s no secret that we have been looking for a new left-back for quite some time now. Over the course, several names have been linked but the one that looks almost certain now is Alex Telles from FC Porto. The 27-year-old has had an incredible career at the Portuguese outfit and is considered to be one of the best in his position across Europe. Like any modern left-back, Telles emphasizes his game more on the attacking side and often pushes the opposition onto their back foot. Having said that, the Brazilian doesn’t compromise on his defending skills as well. Now, since his arrival seems to be only a matter of time, the big question arises, which player’s Chelsea career is at stake – Marcos Alonso or Emerson Palmieri?

Confusing yet if you go a bit deep then it’s actually pretty easy to understand. If last season taught us anything, it’s that our defence is pretty shaky. So it becomes evidently clear that this team is in dire need of specialized defenders. Defenders who are strong in their basics and can eventually build their game further.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08, Marcos Alonso of Chelsea FC during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on December 8, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 08, Marcos Alonso of Chelsea FC during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on December 8, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)

If we look at Alonso, he has had an incredible 2020 to say the least. He has won us games with his decisive goals and in fact, is our leading goal scorer in 2020. Now the question is, as much of an attacking threat that Alonso brings, is he a good defender? Definitely not. In fact, it wouldn’t be a unfair to suggest that he hasn’t got a defender’s instinct. Often caught off guard, he has been a weak link in this Chelsea side for quite some time now. The opposition attackers often target him and is someone who gets easily dribbled past. His positioning and awareness are dismal as he gets dragged from his position too often and, lets not to forget his extremely slow reflexes and reactions. The Spaniard, with his poor marking and lack of backtracking, often puts the left centre back at the risk of being in a 1v2 situation.

Having said these, there are no doubts about Alonso’s attacking abilities. He is probably one of the best left wing-backs in the world right now. He’s always got an eye for the goal and with a gifted left foot, he seldom misses his target. He is someone who is extremely good at getting at the end of the crosses and always lurks at the opportunity of scoring a goal.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 09: Emerson Palmieri of Chelsea FC gestures during the UEFA Europa League Semi Final Second Leg match between Chelsea FC and Eintracht Frankfurt at Stamford Bridge on May 9, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 09: Emerson Palmieri of Chelsea FC gestures during the UEFA Europa League Semi Final Second Leg match between Chelsea FC and Eintracht Frankfurt at Stamford Bridge on May 9, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)

On the other hand, Emerson is a traditional left-back. He is defensively better than Alonso and often does a decent job when stationed at the left-back position. However, even he isn’t miles better than the Spaniard.


He got off to an amazing start this season and quickly impressed the fans and the manager alike. In fact, he was termed to be one of the top 3 left-backs in the league then. However, his momentum was cut short by an injury during the international break. He missed some crucial games and that led to the medical staff forcing his return quicker than normal. This further aggravated his injury and derailed his development. The Italian international was forced to sit on the sidelines longer than everyone had hoped. And when he finally did return, after being declared fully fit, he seemed to have lost his Midas touch. Constant errors and poor performances meant Lampard had to rely on skipper Cesar Azpilicueta for the left-back position. Amidst this, there were also rumours that his heart was already set for Italy as he was claimed to be missing his family. And we really were back to square one, again.

Now, as aforementioned, Emerson is a decent left-back who is does a good job in the defensive line. His attacking returns may not be as impressive as Alonso but even the Spaniard himself has a drop in his attacking rate, slightly below his usual standards, when stationed at left-back than at left wing-back.

So who should we be backing?

Well, in my opinion, Emerson should be getting the nod ahead of Alonso but that’s only if the player is fully committed to staying. With rumours suggesting that he is missing Italy, I wouldn’t want a player who has mentally already made a move to be playing at the club. The reason why I back Emerson is chiefly because he is better suited to what Lampard wants in his system – hardworking player who doesn’t shy away from both his attacking and defensive duties. And based on last season it’s pretty evident that Lampard’s preferred formation is either the 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1, in which I expect Emerson to do a better job as a deputy to Telles than Alonso. Now Alonso, might be an exceptional player of the 3-4-3 system but the question is, how often is Lampard going to opt that setup?

Chelseas head coach Frank Lampard during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Southampton at Stamford Bridge, London on Thursday 26th December 2019. (Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Chelseas head coach Frank Lampard during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Southampton at Stamford Bridge, London on Thursday 26th December 2019. (Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

If four at the back is the way forward then I surely wouldn’t want Alonso stationed there. Now I am not denying that 3-4-3 will never/shouldn’t be used, but even if it did, Telles is more than capable of handling the left wing-back role as well. So it’s actually wise to have Emerson as a back up as he can slot relatively better in the left-back position and might even do a fair job at the left wing-back position if the need arises. Whereas Alonso at left-back is nothing short of a horror story. Not to forget, Alonso is 29 and now might be the right time to cash in on him especially when he is in red hot form. Emerson, 25, is yet to hit his peak age and if decides to put his head down and work hard with the right temperament, then he might well turn out to be more than handy as a deputy.

Now, people who rate players on stats will have to take rest here since judging these two entirely based on stats is going to be very tricky. Emerson has started as a left-back in the majority of the matches this season while Alonso has juggled between the left-back and the left wing-back roles. And due to this varied role taken up by these two, one may have an added advantage over the defending stats while the other might be better equipped with the attacking stats. So using stats will do justice neither to the players and nor to their talents.

Having said that, touching on specific statistics can actually give a glimpse of how Emerson and Alonso differ in terms of their basic attributes.

Passing

PlayerMatchesPass success (%)Key passesThrough balls  Final 3rd passesCrosses
Emerson1485.171802754
Alonso1181.901612832
Passing stats

It’s no surprise that Emerson is the better passer of the two, however Alonso makes more passes in the attacking region and this might be due to the fact that he occupies a higher position while playing as a left wing back. Emerson on the other hand hasn’t done badly either. In fact, he is a better crosser of the ball and also cuts down those risky passes, which Alonso is typically associated with. The stats are just another source of evidence and even with a naked eye, one can easily deduce that.

Defending

PlayerMatchesTackles won (Tackles made)InterceptionsDribbled past per gameFouls per gameAerial battles won
Emerson1412 (23)180.40.326
Alonso1111 (20)141.10.816
Defending stats

So, the only area where Alonso seems to be better than Emerson is in terms of heading abilities and that’s very obvious given he is relatively taller than his counterpart. However, when it comes to interceptions and tackles, Emerson outperforms Alonso. The fact that Emerson is a better defender than Alonso needs no explanation and these stats prove exactly that. And not to forget, Alonso is prone to committing fouls as well, most of which are either useless.


So, while the fans may be divided on this particular discussion, the choice clearly is left to Lampard on who he feels might suit well to his plans. Also, whoever stays shouldn’t be expecting much game time next season as it’s clear who Chelsea’s first choice left-back is going to be. So this and multiple other factors will come into fray in deciding who the deputy left-back is but for now, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Emerson slightly has an upper hand.

By Shyam

Edited by Jai Mcintosh and Dami Adeleye


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