Marcos Alonso’s stunning form stands in Nathan Ake’s path to the lineup

Credit: Chris Axon
Credit: Chris Axon /

Marcus Alonso has been a consistent choice for Antonio Conte for the entire season so far. How will his stellar showing against Leicester impact Nathan Ake’s half-season at Chelsea?

Despite sometimes being a scapegoat when things do not quite work, Marcos Alonso has proven his importance in the squad repeatedly. His performance against Leicester was his best of the season. He excelled on both sides of the ball, controlled the left side of the pitch and scored his first career brace.

But what does this mean for Nathan Ake? Chelsea controversially recalled him from his loan at Bournemouth last week. Chelsea activated a specific recall clause in the loan agreement, despite Ake getting regular game-time at Bournemouth. Ake showed a lot of potential with the Cherries and earned manager Eddie Howe’s trust.

Nathan Ake is well-suited for Marcos Alonso’s position, but his chances of displacing Alonso are vanishingly small. Antonio Conte made it clear that Ake would not play immediately. Conte said Ake needs time to adapt to Chelsea’s current style.

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“Needing time to adapt” is a very common managerial phrase that often translates to having no plans for the player. At this point, that translation seems fitting for Ake’s situation. Alonso is not showing any signs of slowing down. Against Leicester he played like a man who knew he had competition for his role and had no intention of ceding his place.  It seems highly unlikely that Alonso will lose his place while on such high form.

Nathan Ake should not have been recalled. He was playing consistently in the Premier League, which is the best thing for a young hopeful. More than that, he was playing very well under Eddie Howe. He scored three goals and overall his performances were solid. Unless he sees adequate game time with Chelsea, his progression this season is at an end.

The loan system works incredibly well if given the time. If the assumption that Nathan Ake can only play effectively in Marcos Alonso’s position is true, there is clearly an issue.

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There are really only two possible reasons why Ake is back at Chelsea. Maddeningly, neither option is as beneficial as him continuing his loan.

There have been recurring stories throughout the season that Alonso is working through a slight injury. Chelsea have no depth at wingback despite the importance of this position to Conte’s tactics. Conte may have recalled Ake in case Alonso has a prolonged absence due to injury, or simply to provide an option for squad rotation to prevent such injury.

The only other plausible explanation is the FA Cup. Chelsea’s next game at home is against League Two’s Brentford. This would be a good time for Ake to show if he has “adapted” to the Conte way. Youth integration is always a positive sight, and the Peterborough game showed that the Chelsea manager is willing to work on this.

Whatever the reason for Ake’s return, the reasons behind his loan recall are anything but clear. The FA Cup squad may be where he belongs this season, but he was getting much better practice at Bournemouth. Staying there for the remainder of the season would have been much more beneficial to him than being a bench warmer.

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As always, the Blues must show faith in Antonio Conte and hope his plans for Ake become clear sooner rather than later. Fortunately, Conte has earned that trust so far.