Emerson came off in the 8′ of Italy’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Finland. He later tweeted his injury is nothing serious, but we’ll have to wait to find out what that means for him and Chelsea.
Chelsea’s international break bad luck landed on Emerson Palmieri on Sunday. His exit was even earlier in the game than N’Golo Kante’s on May 5 against Watford. Unlike Kante, though, Emerson was not on the pitch in a compromised position through the gross incompetence of his manager. Considering how Chelsea are still dealing with the consequences of the Kante incident three months ago, Roberto Mancini, Frank Lampard and their respective staffs will hopefully take an extra conservative approach to Emerson’s match readiness.
Sometimes the only chance a player has of getting off the bench and into the starting XI is when the incumbent gets injured. If the substitute has been training well and has the right attitude, this will be a seamless transition and a deserved if inadvertent opportunity. Many times, it can also be his chance to flip the roles and make himself the man to beat in the lineup.
This has been the case many times at Chelsea. Gary Cahill was diligently patient during those spans when he fell out of favour and lost his spot in the starting XI. Every time, with one exception that had nothing to do with him, he pounced on the openings that presented himself and never looked back. Pedro did the same with Willian in 2016/17, when the Brazilian took time off to mourn his mother’s passing. Cesar Azpilicueta found his way into the lineup in a similar fashion many years ago.
Marcos Alonso may now have that chance. Emerson has taken control of the starting left back spot this season. He has been unspectacular but solid: a perfect combination for any defender.
Alonso’s best moments tended towards the spectacular, coming mainly as a wingback in 2016/17 and the beginning of 2017/18. When playing as a left-back, he does not have many chances to be spectacular and often neglects the need to be solid. Hence, Emerson.
If Emerson is unavailable for a few games, it could be a threshold for Frank Lampard to try a three-man defence. Emerson’s injury would mean Chelsea do not have a ready back-up for either full-back. The four-man defence is often abandoned by the Kante-less midfield. Losing Emerson may be too much for Chelsea, Lampard and Kepa Arrizabalaga to bear, which could impel him to try a three-man system.
This would be the dream scenario for Marcos Alonso. The onus would be on him not only to justify his continued inclusion on the left after Emerson returns, but for the side to maintain the new set-up, where he would be the prohibitive favourite.
But even if Emerson is only out as a precaution for a game or two, Alonso can still kick off a battle for the starting spot. If he can lock down the defence on Chelsea’s left, offer a better option for playing out through the left side and chip in on offence – particularly with set pieces – he can complete the switch.
Throughout 2017/18 we talked about how much Marcos Alonso needed a challenger for his spot on the left, and Alonso himself said he welcomed the competition. Emerson has finally become that player. This might be Alonso’s chance to prove it all.