Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso has admitted he has struggled to adapt to the unique demands of manager Mauricio Sarri and says the Italian coach is ‘still learning’ about English football.
Alonso enjoyed two excellent seasons under Antonio Conte as part of a five-man defence but appears less comfortable in the four-man system favoured by Sarri. Having earned a place in the PFA team of the year last season and broken into the Spain squad, Alonso has endured a fall from grace this season.
Sarri substituted Alonso in the 6-0 defeat at Manchester City in February and also left him out of a trip to Malmo in the Europa League in the days that followed. Brazilian full-back Emerson Palmieri was favoured ahead of Alonso but the Spaniard has since earned back his place ahead of Wednesday’s final against Arsenal in Baku.
Alonso reflected: “I started very well. Then the manager asked me for something different. I tried to do what he was asking me and maybe when the team started winning games again I had a small injury in my back. Managers are different, they have different aspects of tactics. He wanted to change the way we play.”
Sarri appeared close to the sack following a terrible run of form earlier in 2019 and dismal away defeats against City, Arsenal, Bournemouth, Everton and Liverpool, as well as an FA Cup exit against Manchester United. However, Chelsea’s form stabilised to earn a top-four finish and a place in the Europe League final.
Alonso said: “It’s never easy in the first year, to come to a new country and new league, new football, new culture. The gaffer is still learning, he was not a football player either so he is learning a lot this year. It can change very quickly. In football, one week you are the best in the world and the next week you are the worst, at the end, we have qualified for the Champions League.”
Asked what it is like to take instructions from a banker-turned-football manager in Sarri, Alonso said: “It can be different but we have to be professional and take on whatever he asks us for. He is different. It’s been a tough but good year at the end and now we have a massive chance to win a trophy.”