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Talking Tactics

Chelsea transformed by adventurous Alonso

Adrian Clarke 6 Mar 2020
Marcos Alonso

Adrian Clarke explains how return of Blues defender to starting XI has been crucial ahead of Everton match

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points ahead of Matchweek 29.

Marcos Alonso has spent much of 2019/20 as Chelsea's second-choice left-back, but the Blues are almost always more dangerous with him in the side.

The Spaniard has scored three goals in his last two Premier League outings and has exerted a remarkable influence on the team this term.

Frank Lampard's side have won seven of the eight top-flight matches Alonso has started, scoring more goals and conceding fewer.

The Spaniard was involved in the handsome victories at Wolverhampton Wanderers, Southampton and Burnley, and also played in both triumphs over Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea with and without Alonso
2019/20 Alonso starts Alonso not starting
Matches 8 20
Wins 7 6
Goal diff. F22 A8 F25 A31
Av. points 2.75 1.15

Given the remarkable statistics above, the 29-year-old is surely in line to start again at home against Everton this Sunday.

Lampard has missed the adventure that Alonso provides down the left side for much of this campaign, especially at Stamford Bridge.

The only dilemma for Chelsea's head coach will be which formation to fit Alonso into.

Choosing the right formula

Lampard's preference appears to be a traditional four-man defence but Chelsea have been more reliable with a back three.

They have only lost one Premier League match in a 3-4-2-1 system this season, a 2-0 home defeat by Southampton.

It should be noted, though, that they switched from a back three to a four-man defence when coming from behind against both Arsenal and AFC Bournemouth.

Chelsea formations 2019/20
Premier League Matches  Pts Ave. pts
4-3-3 14 19 1.36
4-2-3-1 8 13 1.63
3-4-2-1 6 13 2.17

When the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Willian are fully fit and in form, it makes sense on many levels for Lampard to use a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 set-up.

It frees up room for an extra attacking midfielder to be selected, instead of a defender.

However, the quality of the Blues' attacking full-backs means they can switch seamlessly to 3-4-2-1.

Alonso, Emerson and Reece James are three of the most exciting full-backs in the Premier League.

They create chances, deliver end product and take up extremely advanced positions.

As natural wing-backs, they are ideally suited to Lampard's plan B.

Top Premier League defenders per 90
Shots Chances created
Marcos Alonso 1.99 Trent Alexander-Arnold 2.67
Jeffrey Schlupp 1.47 Lucas Digne 2.42
Matt Doherty 1.31 Marcos Alonso 1.76
Reece James 1.30 Emerson 1.67

 

Touches in opp. box Open-play crosses
Marcos Alonso 4.33 Trent Alexander-Arnold 6.73
Matt Doherty 3.32 Benjamin Mendy 5.47
Cesar Azpilicueta 3.10 Reece James 5.47

In the short-term at least, Alonso's knack for finding goalscoring positions makes him invaluable.

His 30.8 per cent shot conversion rate is Chelsea's highest when you take out the occasional contributions of Antonio Rudiger (33.3 per cent) and penalty taker Jorginho (50 per cent).

Compensating for aerial weakness

Another advantage Chelsea have when using three centre-backs is the extra height it gives them when defending set-pieces and crosses.

This has been an area of weakness throughout Lampard's first season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Most aerial goals conceded 2019/20
Headed goals Goals from corners
Club Total Club Total
AVL 11 AVL 9
WOL 9 NOR 9
CHE 8 CHE 8
NOR 8 MUN 8
  WHU 8

Meanwhile, Sunday's opponents Everton have scored the most goals from corners, with nine, and boast the twin aerial threats of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison.

So despite beating Liverpool 2-0 in the FA Cup this week with a back four, it may be prudent for Lampard to consider reverting to a back three.

Bringing in an extra centre-back, while releasing Alonso and James to play further forward, could pay off against the Toffees.

Also in this series

Part 2: Fred and Rodri duel key to derby dominance
Part 3: Cherries can copy Watford's winning formula at Liverpool
Part 4: Samatta style can suit Aston Villa game plan

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