Chelsea: Spain's transition to Luis Enrique stifled Marcos Alonso in debut

By On September 09, 2018

Chelsea: Spain's transition to Luis Enrique stifled Marcos Alonso in debut

Marcos Alonso played his first competitive game for Spain in Luis Enrique’s first game in charge. Spain’s learning curve held back the Alonso Chelsea know.

Left-back. 4-3-3. Wembley Stadium. A bunch of Hotspurs on the opposition. Marcos Alonso should have felt very much at home in Spain’s Nations League opener against England. Despite all the familiarity, though, Alonso was tentative and unthreatening in his first full cap. He made few runs forward into midfield, rarely progressing beyond Spain’s holding midfielder. He did not push Spain’s left winger forward so he could get around him for overlapping runs and crosses into the box. And for the first time this season, he went the full game without taking a shot.

The match was Spain’s first under Luis Enrique, so they are in a similar situation as Chelsea as they learn a new manager’s system. However, they looked more like Arsenal than the Blues in terms of their early levels of comfort and execution.

Enrique’s defence plays much more narrowly than Maurizio Sarri’s. The four defenders do not stretch much beyond the width of the box once the opposition enters their half. This is a noticeable difference for Marcos Alonso, who has spent over two years at Chelsea hugging the touchline, first as a wing-back and now as a full-back in a more expansive back-line.

England play more like Chelsea of the past two years, making strong use of the flanks on transition, attack and press. The combination of the two teams’ tactics gave England complete control of the outside of the pitch. Whenever Marcos Alonso would move towards the touchline in Spain’s half â€" either with the ball or to open up for a pass â€" two or three England players would quickly close him down because they were already there.

By playing so wide, England left space in and just inside of the half-space . This seemingly beckoned for Alonso to move up into these areas to get behind the midfield, but instead he stayed back behind his own midfield. Alonso did not make his first run up and in towards the top of England’s box until the 21′, and repeated this move very seldomly for the remainder of the game.

England’s width on defence also limited the space for Alonso to make overlapping runs in the final third. However, his winger did not make many attempts to drive inside to pull the defenders with him and create the outside lane for Alonso to run onto a pass. At Chelsea, Alonso would have responded to the opponent’s wide pressure by making a diagonal run towards the box to latch on to a through-ball. Instead he stayed back, serving as little more than an outlet when the winger found his other options closed down.

As a result, Alonso had only one touch in England’s box and only five touches outside the box within 18 yards of the end line. From those he completed t wo of his three attempted crosses. Alonso led Spain with 88 completed passes, but only nine of those were in the final third.

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Marcos Alonso was far from the only Spanish player to look unsure of himself or his role in the system. Overall, Spain were chasing the ball on defence and were uncertain of what to do, when and with whom on offence. They had the general contours of Enrique’s system, but the players did not seem to apply their individual talents to fill in the gaps in their execution. They all looked a bit shackled and lost.

This w as not only Alonso’s first game under Enrique but his first start for Spain and his first competitive international appearance. Luis Enrique has an on-again, off-again relationship with Jordi Alba. Currently, it is off again, hence Alonso’s start. He may have been a bit risk averse, thinking his prospects of a second start and future call-ups would be more damaged by making a glaring error than holding back in an abundance of caution.

Playing in a narrow defence against a wide opposition and having the much-faster Kieran Trippier as his direct opponent may have tilted Alonso’s risk-reward balance. A mistimed or miscommunicated run could leave Trippier one pass over the top from a clear run down the flank, with only Sergio Ramos left to defend.

Alonso is certainly no stranger to making runs against the threat of an outlet pass to faster opponents. But he would normally be more secure in his defensive coverage, both because of his understanding with the centre-backs or defensive midfielders and because of who they are. He would also know what the manager would consider a smart risk. Alonso may not yet have that measure of Luis Enrique, and does not want to learn the hard way.

Spain’s next game is Tuesday against Croatia. Luis Enrique may have decided already to give one game to each of Marcos Alonso and Jose Gaya so he could assess them both in match situations. Both matches are in the Nations League and against teams from the last four of the World Cup, so they will be equivalent tests for each left-back. However, if Enrique had decided to use the England game to determine his lineup for Croatia, Alonso is in good shape.

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He may have self-stifled a bit, but he did not play himself out of the XI. If Enrique is going one game at a time, Gaya will have to wait one more game.

Source: Google News Spain | Netizen 24 Spain

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