Does Marcos Alonso deserve to be Chelsea's starting left wing-back?

Does Marcos Alonso deserve to be Chelsea's starting left wing-back?

Marcos Alonso has been a mainstay of the Chelsea first team so far this season. There had been rumours that the Spaniard would be available for transfer during the summer, but he has managed to force his way into Thomas Tuchel’s plans. Ben Chilwell remains on the sidelines, with the England international yet to feature for the club in the 2021/22 campaign. Although there is good competition across the pitch for Chelsea, few would have expected this to be the preferred set-up at left-back.

It has been a positive start to the season for Alonso. The main asset that he brings to the team is his attacking quality. He offers a bigger goal threat and excels in the wing-back role. Chilwell may be the more complete defender, but many believe he is better as a left-back. There is no doubting that Alonso has more experience and understands the wing-back role better than his English team-mate.

During his first four Premier League appearances, he has already managed to score a goal. Alonso has averaged 1.3 shots and 2 key passes per game. There is definitely intent to join the attack and there is similar intent on the other flank when Reece James is in the team. In their current formation, Tuchel expects his wing-backs to offer the width, creativity and goal threat.

As it is still relatively early in the season and the sample size is small, it may be better to look at Alonso’s attacking stats for last season. He only played 960 minutes in the league. This season, he is already on his way to beating that with 356 minutes. In the 2020/21 campaign, he averaged 1.7 shots and 1.2 key passes per game. The Spaniard managed to score two league goals.

Meanwhile, Chilwell contributed three goals and five assists last season. He averaged 1 shot and 1.1 key passes per game. His number of goals and assists was impressive for a full-back, but he doesn’t carry the same threat as Alonso. That is shown in the underling stats.

The difference isn’t as clear when looking at the expected goals and assists (xG+xA). Alonso averaged 0.27 xG+xA per ninety minutes last season. This shows a bigger threat than Chilwell, who averaged 0.21 xG+xA.

In terms of their defensive abilities, there is a preference within the fan base for Chilwell. That said, there has been a change in Alonso’s defensive style this season. He is being more aggressive out of possession and that could be a result of instructions from Tuchel. Last season, he averaged 1 tackle and 0.9 interceptions per game. That has risen to 2.5 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per game at the beginning of this season, albeit the sample size is small.

Last season, Chilwell averaged 1.6 tackles and 0.9 interceptions per game. His positioning is better than Alonso’s and his understanding of defending is at a higher level than the Spaniard.

There are more mistakes in Alonso’s game than Chilwell. That is one of the biggest flaws in the Spaniard’s game, but they haven’t been a common occurrence at the beginning of this season.

It is likely that Chilwell will return to the starting eleven at some point, as he is the more complete option and there is potential for him to improve under Tuchel. Alonso has been delivering the same performances under a number of coaches, but he is currently in possession of the shirt and he has done nothing that warrants being dropped. The challenge is for Chilwell to force his way back in.

Stats taken from Whoscored and fbref (powered by Statsbomb)