During the final day of the summer transfer window in 2016, Chelsea were adjudged to have overspent on an average player, with many calling the purchase of Marcos Alonso from Fiorentina a panic buy. The Spaniard’s had his critics over the last two seasons he’s spent at Stamford Bridge but, in truth, he’s cemented himself as one of the most influential attacking full-backs in world football. His goals and assists contributed to Chelsea’s Premier League triumph in his first season while his ability to adapt to a wing-back role was crucial in Antonio Conte’s willingness to install a back three into the side.
Having enjoyed two impressive seasons at left back, Cesar Azpilicueta continued in that role during Conte’s first few games in charge before defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal forced the Italian manager into switching formation. Alonso, who had previously played at left wing-back at Fiorentina, was brought into the side while Azpilicueta was shifted into the centre of defence. With the Blues winning their first thirteen league games using this new formation, Alonso didn’t taste defeat as a starter until Dele Alli’s double downed the league leaders in January.
By the time the Blues lost at White Hart Lane, Alonso had bagged his first Chelsea goal in a 5-0 rout of Everton and also had an assist to his name after setting up Eden Hazard to seal a win at the Etihad Stadium. After readjusting to English football during his first few months at Chelsea, Alonso found the net more regularly from his wide position in the second half of the season. Often finding himself in the box to finish crosses, Alonso netted twice at Leicester and then powered in a header against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge. A sublime free-kick away at Bournemouth hinted at his talent from a dead ball before a fortunate finish against Middlesbrough helped the Blues on their way to the Premier League title.
The only league game Alonso missed was the 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford where illness prevented him from playing, despite taking part in the warm-up. Azpilicueta moved over to left wing-back and Kurt Zouma came into the side but Conte’s team without Alonso was out of balance and looked beaten from the very start on that afternoon in Manchester. Chelsea’s pursuit of Alex Sandro during the summer of 2017 was insulting for Alonso, who seemed to have secure his place in the side while playing a key part in the team’s success. Although the deal for the Juventus left-back didn’t happen, it was true that the Blues didn’t cover for Alonso, having looked out of sorts when he wasn’t in the team the season before.
After a disappointing loss at home to Burnley on the opening day, Chelsea and Alonso bounced back at Wembley as the Spaniard’s two goals took all three points in the London derby. His first came from another exquisite free-kick before his late winner squirmed under Hugo Lloris. As the Blues endured a difficult defence of their league title, Alonso was finding the net more frequently than he had ever done before. During the winter months, he managed 3 goals in 5 games, culminating with a neat near-post finish at the Emirates to put Chelsea in front late on. Yet another free-kick against Newcastle in the FA Cup further proved his potent threat in those situations.
Rather unsurprisingly, Chelsea suffered at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford in successive heavy defeats without Alonso in the squad through injury. His part in Chelsea’s comeback against Southampton in April, an assist for Olivier Giroud, was tainted by his retrospective ban for stamping on Shane Long. The Blues managed ugly wins against Burnley and Swansea in his absence before he returned to help Conte win his first cup competition as a manager against Manchester United. His start under Maurizio Sarri has been just as impressive as he played a key role in the Blues’ win over Arsenal with his third goal against the Gunners and an assist for Pedro.
While some may argue his attacking statistics of 15 goals and 9 assists in all competitions since his arrival two seasons ago are down to his more advanced position, his performances against Huddersfield and Arsenal so far this season are just the beginning of yet another prolific season at left back. No defender in the Premier League has scored more goals than Marcos Alonso in the last two seasons combined and his figures for goals and assists trump those of Marcelo, Jordi Alba, Dani Alves and David Alaba. And to think some Chelsea fans still believe Emerson would bring more to the side.