Marcos Alonso’s late winner against Newcastle United at the weekend was not a surprise, as our Spanish left-back has shown quite the happy knack for settling games over the past three years.
Since his arrival from Fiorentina in the summer of 2016, no defender has contributed more Premier League goals than the 28-year-old, who took his top-flight tally as a Blue to 16 after firing past the previously unbeatable Martin Dubravka.
Some of those strikes have been of vital importance, none more so than the brace he struck past Hugo Lloris in August 2017, inflicting defeat upon Tottenham Hotspur in the first-ever Premier League match to be played at Wembley Stadium with a stunning free-kick and powerful late winner.
He’d already proved decisive on several occasions in the previous campaign, his first at the Bridge, when he netted six times on our way to claiming the Premier League title. That included another brace, this time against Leicester City – and he came mightily close to scoring a hat-trick in that game. Not since David Webb, against Ipswich Town in 1968, has a Blues defender achieved that unique feat.
Arsenal are another who were on the receiving end that season, when Alonso headed home the opening goal in a 3-1 victory. A little over 18 months later he was at it again when we met the Gunners in Maurizio Sarri’s first home game as Chelsea boss, firing home in the final 10 minutes to settle a thrilling match after we’d let a two-goal lead slip in the first half.
That proved to be one of only two goals he scored that season in the top flight, with the second coming at Old Trafford towards the end of the campaign to help us secure third place, and now he’s back on the goal trail again this term with his winner at the weekend.
While his goal output may have dropped over the course of the past season or so, a simple explanation for that is a change in position which has seen him feature more regularly as a conventional left-back, rather than in the wing-back role which previously allowed him far greater attacking freedom.
He noted as much in an interview with Chelsea magazine in December last year, explaining how the positional change meant a more cerebral approach was required in the attacking third.
‘When you are playing in a back four you have to pick the right moments to do damage to the other team,’ he said. ‘Playing as a full-back, I cannot be as close to the other team’s goal as I used to be playing as a wing-back, so I have to pick when I attack, and then stay back defending, which is the most important part of my role.’
You’re not wrong there Marcos, but we won’t complain if you keep popping up with vital contributions at the other end, too!