Most Chelsea fans have been calling for Emerson Palmieri to start ahead of Marcos Alonso at left-back for a while now and it was nice to see the Brazilian-born Italy international in the starting XI against Tottenham on Thursday night.
Following his impressive performance in the win over Tottenham, should Emerson start ahead of Alonso at left-back against Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday? I think I would be speaking the mind of most Chelsea fans if I say I want Alonso to start against Sheffield Wednesday and I will explain why.
Alonso arrived at Stamford Bridge from Fiorentina in 2016 with little fanfare as many fans didn’t know what to expect from the Spaniard. Chelsea had wanted Alex Sandro but had to settle for Alonso with Juventus reluctant to sell Sandro.
Following Chelsea’s 3-0 loss at Arsenal in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge of the Blues, the Italian adopted a 3-4-3 formation. Played as a left wing-back with three central defenders behind him, Alonso impressed and helped Chelsea secure the title in Conte’s first season in charge.
He also had a good second season at Chelsea despite our failure to finish in the top four as the Spaniard scored quality free-kicks and continued to bomb the left wing.
Following arrival of Maurizio Sarri as Chelsea boss this season, the Blues abandoned the 3-4-3 formation and adopted the 4-3-3 formation which meant Alonso had to play as a left-back and not a left wing-back.
The Spaniard started the season as a left-back brilliantly and even earned a first Spain call-up early this season. He signed a new Chelsea contract in October as the club rewarded him for his fine start to the season but all have not gone well for Alonso ever since.
He failed to make the last Spain team and has been out of form for Chelsea. Alonso excelled playing as a left wing-back but is now struggling playing as a left-back. He is struggling defensively this season and has been clumsy in tackles, already picking up four yellow cards. His lack of pace has been exploited by opponents this season.
Chelsea boss Sarri admitted in December that the Spaniard is struggling but revealed it is difficult to drop Alonso for Emerson because Chelsea could have problems in set-pieces.
“In the last period he [Alonso] didn’t play a lot, he wasn’t in the national team,” Sarri said of Alonso in December.
“The usage is not very high for him. He played in the Premier League, but not Europa League. National team he played just one match.
“He played not very well against Fulham, he played better in the first half at Wolves, but had some problems in the second half.
“Of course Emerson is a good option. I have to consider also some details. Without Alonso we could have problems in set pieces. I have to consider everything.”
So despite Alonso’s poor form, Sarri still continued to play him as he needed the height of the Spaniard during set-pieces.
Emerson Palmieri has just been limited to substitute appearances in the league and starts in the Europa League and Cup games this season due to Sarri’s insistence on playing Alonso due to his height advantage.
Emerson’s impressive performance in the win against Tottenham on Thursday would surely give Sarri a selection headache.
Emerson showed his ability to thrive in a high pressure game with an impressive performance against Tottenham, and a run of matches with the full backing of his manager would give the confidence to become an absolute hit.
Emerson showed great pace to join the attack and recover when Chelsea are defending and Chelsea boss Sarri was obviously impressed with his performance.
“Emerson will stay with us, for sure. He’s very important. He’s improving. Sometimes I had a little problem to put him in because we are not a very physical team so when we play with three little players in the same match, set-pieces could be a problem, but not for another reason. I’m very happy with him, he’s improving and he’s a very good player.” Sarri said.
Sarri is expected to rotate the team for the FA Cup game against Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday as he keeps the core of his players fresh for the Premier League game against Bournemouth on Wednesday.
I think I will be speaking the mind of every Chelsea fan if I urge Sarri to play Alonso against Sheffield Wednesday and then bring back Emerson to the starting XI against Bournemouth. Starting Emerson against Sheffield Wednesday might mean a start for Alonso against Bournemouth on Wednesday.