Marcos Alonso struggled to keep his head above water in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Lille, clinging to his team-mates as the Blues sailed into the Champions League quarter-finals. The 31-year-old, who despite being called a “specialist” by Thomas Tuchel, fell victim to waves of pressure from the Mastiffs, exposing himself – once again – as the hole in the defense of the Blues.
With less than five minutes to spare, Chelsea were tackled against the wall and Alonso was knocked down by Lille defender Tiago Djaló. The Spain international’s flat-footed defense opened up an attacking path for their opponent and, without reinforcements, Lille could have staged a late comeback.
Alonso’s moment of embarrassment characterized what was a shaky night to forget which saw the intimidating atmosphere at Stade Pierre-Mauroy take the defender prisoner. Despite showing glimpses of magic at Chelsea since joining Fiorentina in 2016 for £24m, Tuchel can no longer rely on the Spaniard to maintain an elite level of focus or consistency. .
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The west London club are tied down by the British government’s sanction of Roman Abramovich until a new owner takes the reins at Stamford Bridge. Tuchel must look internally for Ben Chilwell’s next understudy and the German boss must copy Jurgen Klopp’s tactics which turned Trent Alexander-Arnold into one of the best players in the world – throwing a youngster into the deep end.
Cobham is armed with both Lewis Hall and Dylan Williams, the latter a more natural left-back, as potential candidates willing to follow Alexander-Arnold’s lead. Tuchel has to take his eggs out of Alonso’s basket and put them in theirs.
Hall, who made his debut for Chelsea against Chesterfield in January, has often featured in the left channels, whether as the left center half of a three, full-back or central midfielder. Williams, however, only swapped Pride Park for Stamford Bridge in January and is yet to make a senior appearance for the Blues.
But despite that, the 18-year-old Derby County player has enjoyed more men’s football minutes, having played nine times under Wayne Rooney. Williams is a more natural operator on the left wing, making him the obvious choice to replace Alonso.
Whether Tuchel decides to promote Hall or Williams, the risk and reward are far higher than playing the 31-year-old; Chelsea can invest time in a long-term project instead of just feeding off Alonso’s magic moments.