Marcos Alonso has to be sold in the next transfer window; there is no point skirting around the issue anymore. This is not an overreaction to Chelsea’s abysmal performance against West Brom, nor is it because he is particularly valuable and will bring a big sum to fund other transfers. Simply put, a defender’s first task and greatest strength should be to defend, and Alonso is the worst defender at the club.
Most of the eyes on the defence will fall to Thiago Silva after the veteran Brazilian defender was shown two yellow cards. In Silva’s case, the first was harsh partly due to how early in the game it came (much like Mason Mount’s yellow against Atletico), a warning would have been more than fair on that occasion. His second yellow is unfortunate because he isn’t actually going for the player, but when you lunge and your legs scissor, it is going to be yellow whether you make significant contact or not.
Silva was not why Chelsea was torn apart by West Brom, and to be fair to Alonso, he isn’t the sole reason either. Thomas Tuchel has to take a lot of the blame for setting up the team in the way he did, with three centrebacks for one striker, and then doubling down on that incorrect decision after Silva’s red. However, where the Brazilian has been near exemplary for Chelsea since his arrival, Alonso showed exactly why Frank Lampard dropped him after the first game against the Baggies and kept him off the pitch.
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For all of Alonso’s ability going forward—of which there is plenty—he cannot defend. If the last two goals are any indication, he doesn’t really care about defending either. Alonso’s attacking prowess is a nice bonus, but in a team with the wingers and attacking talent Chelsea has, his defence is more important. Albeit not on show against West Brom, the Blues have the attacking talent, they do not need a defender that wildly attacks but rarely tracks back in time—let alone one who is sloppy in defence.
No Chelsea player, bar Mateo Kovacic and then Mason Mount when he came on, covered themselves in glory on Saturday, but the manner in which the back line fell apart was shocking. West Brom attacked the entire back line with ease, but it found the most joy against Alonso’s left side. This was partly because for half of the goals, he wasn’t there, it was Kurt Zouma defending. Instantly, the defensive structure is muddled because Zouma was repeatedly pulled out to try and close down the Baggies’ attackers, leaving gaps in the middle of the box to allow for a late WBA runner.
If the Blues are on the front foot then Alonso is a good piece to have. He attacks the ball with venom, has an excellent free-kick ability in his back pocket and has scored some timely goals. Yet, that is but one area of football. Don’t forget Chelsea has Ben Chilwell, arguably the best left back in the division now. Further, Emerson may not be star quality, but he defends better than Alonso and that is exactly what defenders are paid to do. This point cannot be stressed enough: defenders defend. Lined up against the rest of the Chelsea defenders, Alonso comes out worst every time. This point is not evident to Tuchel right now, but it might hold a little more weight in his mind after Chelsea plays Porto in the next stage of the Champions League.
Malang Sarr joined Chelsea last summer and was quickly dispatched on loan to Porto. In the Premier League, players who are on-loan cannot play against their parent club, or at least there is a handshake agreement that the club won’t play him. In the Champions League however, that same agreement does not apply.
The Blues have faced this before, with Thibaut Courtois brilliantly stumping Chelsea over two legs while he was between the sticks for Atletico Madrid. Now, the Blues are coming up against Porto with the young, but impressive, Sarr. Mostly deployed as a centreback, Sarr has played a bit of left back in his career. While he is unlikely to slot straight into the Chelsea team, he is another capable, young body and his ability to play both positions should be the nail in the coffin for Alonso’s Blues career.
Aside from the fact that Sarr is just recently 22 and Alonso is 30, football is naturally about fazing out old talent and incorporating young, new talent. All of Chelsea’s trophy winning teams have had defensive stability—that includes Antonio Conte’s team, which catapulted Alonso to international acclaim—but that was the Alonso of almost five years ago. Furthermore, his defending back then was suspect as well, it was just covered up by N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic. Alonso and defensive stability just do not go together, something he has proven time and time again.
Football is ever evolving, the loss against West Brom will not define Chelsea or this Tuchel reign. Of course, the manager and squad will learn from it. Chelsea will move on, but for the sake of the defence, they should do so without Alonso featuring.