You don’t win the league based on how good your starting XI is. What normally separates the winners from the chasers and contenders is their strength in depth and options off the bench.
Being able to call on strong reserves at key moments in the season can make a huge amount of difference to your ambitions. In the past Liverpool and Spurs in particular have really suffered from a lack of depth at the business end of the season, leading to the demise of their challenge for the big prize.
However it now looks as though Liverpool have taken steps to address this glaring issue. They invested heavily in the summer, to strengthen a strong base and some softer areas of their squad. However, City and Chelsea also possess real strength in depth and can call on some top class names, who are not nailed on starters, at key points in their campaign. Some of the players left out by City would simply waltz into most other sides on their day.
In the second part of this mini feature, we take a look at some of the players who go unnoticed or unsung, but ultimately do a lot of good for their sides. They are a few players who we may be talking a lot more about in the coming week.
If ever a player’s CV defined an under rated, unsung career, it’s surely that of Marcos Alonso. The Spanish wing back has fought back from the ignominy of failure at Real Madrid, to become a Premier League winner and Spanish International.
His early season form for Chelsea has been excellent as they have racked up five wins from six in the league and shown no signs of teething problems under Sarri. Chipping in with four assists and a goal from wing back, Alonso has shown that his recent form is no mere purple patch.
With Sarri’s expansive passing game, full backs who are happy to get forward and cause chaos are a must. Possession is all well and good, but it must be effective and have penetration. Players like Alonso can give you that all important quality final ball which is so often devastating. How he has less caps for Spain than Alberto Moreno, is a real mystery.
With players like Alonso in the side Sarri is also at liberty to swap and switch tactics as a game requires. The meticulous Italian is know to switch to a 4-4-2 when operating a pressing game out of possession. On the ball his teams fluctuate somewhere between a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1. The beauty of a player like Alonso in your side is that he is effective in all formations and can be called on to give his side some real options as and when required.
The days of a player simply being a left-back or central midfielder are long gone, you need men like Alonso to be proficient in at least two positions if you are to compete on all fronts. The Spaniard has the pace and skill to marshal his flank with real authority, although he is perhaps more attack minded than defensive. This may allow more gifted sides a bit of crucial room to manoeuver, if he is caught further up field, but you wouldn’t want to limit his contribution by shackling him too heavily.
Alonso also brings to the table, a fierce determination to succeed. His release from Real Madrid saw him forge a career at Bolton Wanderers of all places, Fiorentina and Sunderland, before finally impressing Antonio Conte enough to make a big money move to bring him to Stamford Bridge.
He fought his way back to the top in admirable fashion and for men like Conte to be impressed by him is a real sign of his quality, even if the Italian manager had the audacity to not win every single match of his Chelsea career. Alsonso has clearly done enough to impress Sarri so far though and could well be adding to his Premier League winners medal this season as a key member of the Chelsea squad.