The nominations for Premier League player of the month were released on Thursday afternoon and it was positive from a Chelsea perspective to see the name of Marcus Alonso included in the nominees.
West Ham duo Antonio and Saïd Benrahma, Spurs defender Eric Dier and Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood round off the selections.
The recognition of Alonso’s strong start to the season is deserved but equally points to the constant unpredictability of his Chelsea career which has swayed from cult hero to fringe figure. The Spaniard’s nomination is not only credit to his quality but also further proof of the unity within Thomas Tuchel’s squad.
With Ben Chilwell’s late return from England duty at Euro 2020, Alonso was able to get a head start of his peer during pre-season preparations, playing all of the Blues warm-up fixtures and found himself in the first competitive lineup of the campaign in the UEFA Super Cup.
It was a positive night for Alonso who contributed his usual vigour down the left-wing, he also netted his penalty in the successful shootout at the end of the evening.
Three days later he was starting again in the Premier League opener against Crystal Palace and left a firmer imprint on proceedings.Play
His superb free-kick which left Vicente Guaita rooted to his line, lit the fuse to Chelsea’s domestic campaign and set in motion a convincing victory over the Eagles. With that most recent set-piece delight from Alonso, since the start of the 2016/17 season, he has scored more direct free-kicks than any other player.
Even with calls to reinsert Chilwell back into the favoured eleven, Tuchel stuck with Alonso for the successful trip across London to the Emirates where the 30-year-old once again stood out as a strong performer. Creating the second most chances across the second Premier League weekend of 2021/22.
Again, there were questions over Chilwell’s absence and whether for the daunting trip to Anfield the England international would be used to cope with the threat posed by Mohamed Salah on the right of Liverpool’s attack, but Marcos Alonso remained. It was his, and the Blues most difficult defensive assignment of the season so far, having to play with 10 men for 45 minutes after Reece James’ dismissal.
Alonso was unable to contribute as much offensively but played a role in Chelsea’s resilient defensive output to earn a point.
Starting the season so positively gives Tuchel a nice problem to contend with. With Chilwell expected to gain minutes in the coming weeks as the Blues schedule gets busier, along with the introduction of the UEFA Champions League and Carabao Cup, there should be no great panic over his lack of minutes. But having a player as experienced as Alonso to fill in so impressively whilst Chilwell gets up to speed, raising an argument to gain more minutes is only a positive for Chelsea.
Alonso has been a hard player to analyse since his move from Fiorentina in 2016. The marauding wing-back has a knack for the sublime and a proven track record of big goals for Chelsea at key moments. He also has endured some low moments for the club where defensive flaws in his game have been exposed, and not always against the strongest opposition.
He operates as unorthodox energy for the Blues, a wildcard. Or as my good friend and fellow writer Jai Mcintosh describes him as a “curveball or spin ball“. Tuchel has been able to reintegrate Alonso back into the fold after becoming isolated under Frank Lampard and used him wisely in games where he can have maximum impact.
The high point of last season for Alonso was his last-minute winner away to Manchester City in April’s 2-1 win. But as unexpected as these big moments may appear, in reflection you realise this is what Alonso’s Chelsea career has and will always be defined by. Moments of brilliance followed by time out of the spotlight.
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There is little nuance or calm within Alonso’s trajectory. He is either the best player on the pitch or the worst, the show stealer or the dismissed outsider. His decision to head the ball out of Edouard Mendy’s hands in the madness that lead to Reece James’ red card probably demonstrates the other end of the scale.
It is not a stretch to think of Alonso as an enigma in west London, because that’s what he is.
Don’t try explaining Alonso things, they just are barmy and chaotic and this latest good run under Tuchel is more proof of it.