Marcos Alonso is a full-back who struggles at full-back.
Such a sentence might seem a little strange when it is a Spain international we are talking about; one who honed his talents at Real Madrid before moving to Stamford Bridge in a £24 million deal.
But it is no coincidence Alonso has only really shone under managers who dispensed with a classic ‘back four’ for a rampaging wing-back system. Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, for example, and a Fiorentina team who stormed to the Europa League semi-finals under Vincenzo Montella.
What we can deduce from this, meanwhile, is that the 2017 Premier League winner thrives when he is allowed to fly forwards with little regard for his defensive responsibilities.
As you might have noticed, ever since Frank Lampard took over at Chelsea and switched to a four-man defence that is far more Jose Mourinho than it is Antonio Conte, Alonso’s game-time suffered.
The Blues even paid £50 million for Ben Chilwell, rather than risk handing Alonso a sustained run in the team.
So, with Crystal Palace allegedly interested in offering the buccaneering Spaniard a fresh start at Selhurst Park, there is one major question facing Roy Hodgson (Mail).
Does the Eagles boss change the habit of a lifetime and scrap a famous flat-back four in order to suit the strengths of a 29-year-old full-back?
If Hodgson is willing to adapt, he may be rewarded by a late-career renaissance from a man who, during Conte’s triumphant first season in charge at Chelsea, was challenging Jordi Alba, Marcelo and co for the title of Europe’s finest left-back.
Alonso famously scored six goals, including a bullet header against Arsenal, in that remarkable first season in Chelsea blue.
Just weeks away from his 30th birthday, Alonso still has major flaws in his game.
Maurizio Sarri claimed in 2018 that the former Fiorentina flyer could become ‘the best in the world’ if he improved his defensive awareness (Standard).
Two years on, Chelsea fans are still waiting for Alonso to iron out the kinks that have Lampard convinced that he is not the right fit for a four-man backline.
There is a warning there, then, for Hodgson; a coach who prides himself on defensive organisation more than anything else.
Alonso is a potentially world class operator…but only if you adopt a system that promotes his strengths and hides those very obvious weaknesses.