While the spotlight created by long-standing doubts over his future at Stamford Bridge saw Michy Batshuayi take the headlines with a 15-minute brace, wing-back Marcos Alonso was the man really at the heart of Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Newcastle United on Sunday.
The Spaniard got on the scoresheet as well with a trademark free kick that flew past a helpless Karl Darlow, but that stunning strike only capped of what was a truly exceptional display from the Blues’ resident left wing-back.
Indeed, Alonso also assisted the opening goal, cutely rolling the ball to Batshuayi while running at full pace. But in addition to that, the 27-year-old created the joint-most chances, won the most aerial duels and recorded the most tackles, the most interceptions, the joint-most passes and the most touches of the ball of any Chelsea player.
It was a reminder that, while Alonso may not be a truly world-class wing-back, he’s of vital importance to this Chelsea side both offensively and defensively, and capable of making key contributions at both ends of the pitch.
That in itself, however, serves as a warning too. No Chelsea player has made more starts across all competitions than Alonso this season, simply because he as no obvious understudy in the first-team squad. The only players who have filled in for him are Davide Zappacosta, who is also needed to rotate with Victor Moses on the opposite flank, and Kenedy, who is now on loan at Newcastle.
Once again proving how important a player he is for Chelsea, an injury for Alonso in the coming weeks could cost the champions dearly as we reach the business end of season. Whether it’s via the transfer window, the youth team or placing a square peg in a round hole, Antonio Conte needs to find a solution.
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