Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso says he’s enjoying his new role in the team under Maurizio Sarri even more than his galavanting wingback days under Antonio Conte.
With Jordi Alba dropped from the Spain squad, Chelsea’s 27-year-old told El Pais how much he loves playing for Sarri and how Luis Enrique looks set to ask him to perform the same role for Spain.
Alonso said: ‘Things are working really well with Sarri. I am very happy and with Luis Enrique I can see many similarities.
‘It’s modern football – having the ball, controlling the game, and being well positioned when you lose possession. Both when you defend and when you attack it needs to be about possession and positioning is vital. The Chelsea training sessions are like the Spain ones – possession, bringing the ball out, lots of similar concepts.’
Alonso says his fullback remit this season is more a return to his roots than a difficult new position to learn. ‘People were used to see me in a 3-5-2 because in Fiorentina that was also where I played. But the hard thing was to adapt to that when I arrived in Italy.
‘I’ll my life I had played in a back-four, at Real Madrid Castilla and at Bolton. This is me going back to my natural position. I’m very happy with Sarri’s new system. I am just as happy or even happier than I was in Conte’s 3-5-2.’
Sarri also wants his fullbacks to get forward but Alonso says there are subtle differences.
He told El Pais: ‘Perhaps with Conte I was closer to the other team’s goal. He liked both wingbacks to get very high up the pitch. Now it is more about the element of surprise, arriving from deep and doing it when the other fullback has not gone forward. It depends on how the game is going. If the team needs help then we take more risks.’
One thing that has not changed is the player’s superb understanding with Eden Hazard. ‘It is the third year that we are sharing a wing and we each know each other’s strengths,’ he says.
‘I try to give him one-on-one opportunities as often as possible because that is his strong point. And he looks to get me running in behind because he knows that’s what I’m good at.
‘The 2-0 against Bournemouth comes from a one-two where I run inside and he goes outside of me. With players like Hazard there are so many options.’
Asked if going from playing alongside Hazard to playing alongside Isco is a like-for-like change he adds: ‘It’s great to have great players alongside you.’
Alonso looks set to start for Spain against England at Wembley. He believes English football has taken great strides and the wealth of imported talent over the last decade has played its part.
He said: ‘It’s changed so much. A huge amount of very good players have arrived. When David Silva signed for City in 2010 there were no players like that.
‘It was all end to end stuff and the English did not appreciate things like the pass backwards or control. Or things like the ball reaching you upfront and instead of just heading it on, trying to bring it down with your chest.
‘Now with all the players that have arrived from elsewhere and the coaches such as (Pep) Guardiola, the English footballer has been transformed. They are more competitive now. They have always been strong at home but away it was another thing. In the Russia World Cup we saw something else.
‘Gareth Southgate would come and see us when we trained under Conte. His assistant now Steve Holland was Conte’s No 2 and now England are playing the same system.’