On a list of possible Chelsea players that could leave Stamford Bridge this season, Marcos Alonso probably joins a long list. It’s a scribbled piece of paper that includes Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Andreas Christensen. As for Antonio Rudiger, he’s less replaceable and is a bigger kick in the teeth, that’s a different story.
Put aside the reasons that Alonso might be out of the door to one side for a moment, even the recent bust-up rumours and pleas of wanting to go elsewhere before the season’s end, if Chelsea are doing all they can to keep this version of Alonso, the situation is worse than first feared.
The worrying thing is that this isn’t 2019 anymore. The Blues are through with the best their senior players can bring to the club and even a Champions League triumph last season shouldn’t be enough for them to cling onto their place in this squad.
Maybe Kante is different, he clearly has a lot to offer this team when he’s fit. The Frenchman’s peak is still much higher than the others in that list, he’s arguably the only one that still has any world class tendencies in him – Rudiger aside, his situation is different, again.
The rest shouldn’t be mourned. Azpilicueta, whilst undoubtedly a Blues legend, is seeing this season drag out to comparisons with Branislav Ivanovic in 2015/16. It’s much more than a ‘thank you for the memories, but goodbye,’ sort of thing, but Azpilicueta is becoming a hinderance on the pitch to where Thomas Tuchel wants Chelsea to go.
If there is a way to convince him to stay in a John Terry 2016/17-like role, that should be exercised. But if the only way to keep the current club captain is to offer assurance of his game time, it’s best to part ways out of respect and the benefit for both parties.
Jorginho offers a bit more in terms of stability to Tuchel. His role in midfield is more defined and isn’t one that can be filled by a current member of the team, whereas Azpilicueta is now arguably taking away from minutes that Trevoh Chalobah could benefit from. Jorginho can also be a part of the odd times when Chelsea use a back four, Azpilicueta really isn’t a viable option for rightback, unless you like your fullbacks slow, unable to cross or attack functionally, and prone to more mistakes.
However, if Tuchel is supported this summer, by whoever is to take ownership, then Jorginho isn’t necessarily the type of player to build a team around. He’s been at Chelsea for four seasons now and has been used by three new managers that have all, at some stage, decided he wasn’t what was needed.
The Italian’s play style is slow on and off the ball, offering control but no dynamism that Tuchel so evidently wants. The manager is like a tightly pulled coil on the sideline, just waiting for someone, anyone, to spring a game into life. Jorginho doesn’t bring that. He’s been a useful player for Tuchel to keep and to use, but not someone to progress with.
Christensen is on a different line again, maybe a different story. He is higher up the pecking order due to his age, but even if he hadn’t already done everything but buy a house in Barcelona and move in, the Dane might have been off this summer if the right offer came in. That itself indicates that he’s someone not cemented in this Chelsea future.
When things are in the right place for Christensen to succeed then he can look like a world beater. When much goes astray from that plan then he’s unreliable and cause for concern. Chelsea and Tuchel need better to build from.
These remarks are not out of spite or disrespect, especially where Azpilicueta is concerned, but Chelsea need to get back to being ruthless with their squad rather than piling Stamford Bridge high with generation old heirlooms they can’t bring themselves to dispense of.
That’s the other names out of the way, the main bulk of senior players that played a key role in a Champions League win but are ready to be shipped off around Europe for varying degrees of nothing.
Onto perhaps the most intriguing of the lot though. What is a Marcos Alonso? What has he ever been at Stamford Bridge, because he’s in a strange group of just three players in this team that have won the league at SW6.
There’s not much doubting what Alonso has achieved in London, that speaks for itself and is a collection of trophies that even better players than him will end with much less than.
Even this season he has continued to prove fans wrong. There were questions at the start of the season as to why he was playing over Ben Chilwell, then when the tide turned and the Englishman was in the squad, it all made sense.
Chelsea are cohesive with Chilwell, they can play to an expansive system. Him and Reece James form a wingback partnership that not too many in world football can rival. With Alonso it still seems that he’s a player in blue that just seems to have landed in the team rather than being strategically placed there.
As a backup that’s fine though, who can argue with a wingback that pops up with goals when the times are tough? He’s got an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time but that comes because he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time at the other end.
There isn’t much about Alonso that hasn’t already been said. It would sum up Chelsea’s muddled thinking if they were to turn down more offers for him this summer though. How desperate can a club be to keep a 31-year-old wingback that can’t play fullback, can’t really defend and takes up too much of the wage bill to be healthy at any elite club? It would sum up the Chelsea that we have seen for the past seven years to keep him.
That does beg the question, who else is there? Chilwell would be pressured into hitting top form straight away, and keeping that level of performance up for an unhealthy period of time.
Ian Maatsen looks the best bet from within the club, but he hasn’t played a minute of Premier League football. His suitability to a back four is also relatively unknown with most of his loan at Coventry being spent in wingback, midfield or attacking midfield. At Charlton a year earlier he was moved to being a winger due to his deficiencies at fullback.
On one hand you could say that he might benefit in Chelsea’s high energy, possession based system as opposed to the direct, volatile nature of Championship football. You could also say that his physicality would be less exposed in a faster and more technical league. On that level, he suits Tuchel.
It would be a risk to go into a season with Chilwell and Maatsen as the only two out-and-out wide, left sided defenders. There isn’t much talk of that position being sought after in the market for Chelsea either. The centreback exodus, possible need to find a new striker, clear up of their wings with more than a feather duster, and midfield revolution all take priority to a position where Chelsea have relative strength.
If the rest of the squad is revamped efficiently then the leftback position shouldn’t be one of worry for Chelsea. There is a way to maintain experience and high quality whilst also offloading players at the right time. You just wouldn’t know it if you followed Chelsea.
Alonso might not fit into the structural or strategic plans for whatever unfolds at Stamford Bridge next season and Maatsen does represent a brighter, more intelligent and Tuchel-like future. If he can’t provide Alonso’s height or game-changing attributes, perhaps the Blues will be light at wingback for another year. The decision to be made is if that is better than holding onto someone too long, again.
Now let us briefly analyse why it is that Alonso is doing the news rounds, again. It’s not solely because of speculation that he wants to get back to Italy or move to Spain over the summer. It’s not just because Chelsea will be scouting other players and looking for the future, it’s a long term issue.
If Alonso’s alleged bust-up with Tuchel against Wolves is true, it isn’t the end of the world. These things do happen in the heat of the moment and the severity of it will be unknown for a while. However, behind the Spaniard’s latest crime against professionalism is a character that has fallen out with all of those before him.
Frank Lampard banished him. Many wanted his half at West Brom last season to be his last in a Chelsea shirt. Next up he’s celebrating a Champions League win and the decision is that he can stay, ‘he has something to offer,’ people say. That’s the fickle nature of football. Prove me wrong in the short term and I’ll be believe it changes your character in the long-term.
Such is Alonso’s ability to play below average for a whole game and then pop up with a winner, his character is the same. Some like to defend it because he’s been at the club for six years and scores goals, he’s been a part of good teams, is the argument. If that’s the case, Chelsea have stooped lower than they know.
Written and edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
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