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Has Tottenham’s Danny Rose or Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso been more important to his respective club?

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Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The top two in the Premier League, with two foreign managers, both of whom are favourable of ensuring their team can adapt to varying formations and styles of play.

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Antonio Conte’s side, much like Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, started the season with a 4-2-3-1 style. Conte was the first of the two to switch to 3-4-3, and it transformed the Blues, rejuvenating what many pundits labelled as an ageing, broken Chelsea outfit, giving rise to a club-record winning run which has propelled the West Londoners ten-points clear at the Premier League summit with the title in sight.

Pochettino, whose Spurs side have been involved in the title race once again this term, has gradually implemented a similar system at White Hart Lane. The back-three enables a defence to remain compact, with the protection of sitting defensive-midfielders, which hands free-licence to two marauding wing-backs to bomb forward in support of the attack, rather than being isolated to hanging-back and helping out with the defensive work.

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The contribution of these wide-players, getting up and down the flanks to put balls into the box as well as having the energy and work-rate to track-back and assist in defence, is vital to the implementation of such a system. Tottenham’s flying left-back Danny Rose has been a vital piece of the Tottenham puzzle in enabling it to work for Pochettino’s men, whilst across the capital, the success of Conte’s system is owed in part to their own key-man on the left flank, Marcos Alonso.

By examining both player’s seasons in statistics, in soon becomes apparent just how crucial they have been to their respective clubs in varying ways, and it may go some way towards determining which of the two has had the most telling impact for their club in 2016/17.

The defensive side of each player’s game tells an interesting story. As far as clean sheets go, Marcos Alonso takes the plaudits with 12 clean sheets in his 22 appearances, whilst Danny Rose has played a part in keeping seven clean sheets in the 18 games he has featured in for Spurs this season. In the games that both players have featured in on the pitch. wever, their respective clubs have both conceded a mere 11 goals, with Rose finishing on the losing side just once, and Alonso doing so twice. Rose, however, only has ten wins to his name in the games he has played in this season, compared to the 18 occasions in which Alonso has finished-up on the winning side.

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It seems Danny Rose defensively is also the more accustomed to doing the dirty work out of the two. In the 18 games he has played in, Rose has contributed 50 tackles, with a success rate of 68%, as well as one last-man tackle to deny a goal-scoring opportunity, and eight blocks in front of goal. Alonso in comparison has contributed just 37 tackles in 22 games, with a 65% success rate, putting in six blocks and no last-ditch challenges. That isn’t to say Alonso neglects the defensive work, though, because he is ahead of Rose by way of interceptions, clearances and headed clearances, with 33, 61, and 30 respectively compared to Rose’s total of 22 interceptions, 52 clearances, and 24 headed clearances. Alonso is also in the lead when it comes to recovering possession, having won back the ball 108 times compared to Rose’s 81.

The number of duels between the two also supports the idea that Rose is the more ‘rough and ready’ of the two full-backs.  The Spurs left-back has engaged in 245 in total, winning 148 and losing 97, having won 25 of his 50/50 challenges, whereas Alonso has been involved in 222, winning 119 and losing 103, and has won only 14 of his 50/50s.

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Predictably, though, Alonso has the higher aerial proficiency given his height advantage against the Tottenham man, winning 52 aerial battles out of 87 and losing 35. Rose in comparison has only been involved in 43, winning 27 and losing 16, though he still has a higher success rate than failure despite his size. Both have also been cool and responsible heads in defence, neither having committed errors leading directly to an opposition goal.

So what becomes apparent here is that both are two different types of full-back in terms of their defensive style. Rose is the far more inclined of the two to become involved in personal battles and throw in tackles, whilst Alonso is more of an aerial presence, who seeks to intercept the ball and go forward with it on the ground, but to his credit, he has recovered possession more often out of the two, and tends to do more defensive work in his own penalty area in terms of clearing the ball. This is likely to stem from the fact that Conte’s defence thrives on the wing-backs folding into a back-five when the team needs to defend, whereas in Pochettino’s set-up, the full-backs, despite tracking back to support the defence, play in a system which places emphasis on them going forward, rather than frequently sitting as part of a back-five, which the Blues’ defence has a greater tendency to do.

The differing styles of game within the two is also reflected in their disciplinary records this season. Rose is the more inclined to go in for the tackle, and he, therefore, has earned the majority of bookings out of the two, having received eight yellow cards, and no dismissals, with 26 fouls committed in his 18 games. Alonso’s record consists of just two bookings, with no red cards and 21 fouls in his 22 appearances in 2016/17.

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But given that both players are deployed in systems which require them to get forward as well as track back and defend, a statistical breakdown is necessary once more to define which of the two has been the most effective going forward. Alonso shades Rose in terms of goals and assists, with the Chelsea man scoring four this season (coming against Everton, Leicester [2] and Arsenal), and getting two assists, compared to the two goals and two assists managed by Rose, one of which includes an emphatic winner against Burnley. Alonso is also the only player of the two to have scored from a header, which came early in Chelsea’s London derby victory over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

Of course Alonso has featured in four more games, thanks mainly to Danny Rose’s injury sustained at the end of January, and thus statistically is the player out of the two to have played the most passes, with 928 passes throughout the season (an average of 42.18 passes per game), compared to Rose’s 783 pass total, which nevertheless averages out at a superior 43.50 passes per match, given his lesser number of appearances. It is fair to say, therefore, that in terms of playing the ball, the two are neck-and-neck.

Though despite Alonso seemingly doing more inside his own area, he has contributed slightly more going forward than his counterpart. The Spaniard has created four key chances for the Blues throughout the season, and put 78 crosses into the opposition area, compared to the one key chance crafted by Rose and the 65 crosses he has put into the box. In terms of getting the ball into the target-area from out wide, though, Rose is the more effective despite putting the ball in less, with a crossing accuracy of 22%, compared to Alonso’s 14% of crosses finding their desired target. With both teams having tall strikers to aim for in Harry Kane and Diego Costa, it is interestingly Rose who has played the more long-balls of the two, with 57 accurate long-balls up to the forwards, compared to just 34 played forward by Alonso.

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It is paramount to keep in mind that with Alonso having played more games, some of his totals are bound to be better off, but what is apparent is that despite both clubs having deadly outlets down the right-flank, in Kyle Walker and Victor Moses respectively, is that these two players are both able to get involved frequently down their own flank. Alonso is the more frequent in getting forward of the two seemingly, though his higher number of games may be a contributing factor, but Rose is the more accurate of the two in providing balls from out wide. Though in terms of creating goals, the two are level, with Alonso the more potent goal-scoring force.

In terms of the positions of both teams in the table, it does all come down to that winning and losing ratio. Alonso has been involved in eight more wins than Danny Rose has, and that is ultimately the statistic that has helped Chelsea go ten points clear at the summit. After a full-breakdown, it is quite clear the two are still quite even. Alonso’s higher involvement going forward is likely to be down to his higher number of matches, with both players playing the ball just as much as each other, given both clubs implement an expansive, possession-based, passing style of play, and are effective going forward in different areas.

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The most telling difference between the two, though, is their defensive styles, with Alonso the more inclined to win back the ball and help out in his own box, whilst Rose is far more robust in the challenge and has been involved in the greater number of duels of the two. Neither style of defending is clearly better than the other, though, with both players only having conceded 11 goals each during their time on the pitch.

Although it is inconclusive as to which of the two has been more effective overall, therefore, what is clear is that they both play very different parts in their positions which make them vital components of their respective clubs. They excel both defensively and attacking-wise in differing areas than each other, whilst still maintaining a reasonable efficiency in the other aspects of their game. They are both exceptional in defending and getting forward, but the decisive statistic is, of course, that superior number of wins, which points towards Marcos Alonso being the one to come out on top at the end of the season with a Premier League medal to his name. That is of course if Chelsea can maintain this momentum, but they certainly don’t look like letting up anytime soon.

Scott is a Port Vale fan who writes regularly for The Boot Room as a freelancer. He is a fan of several sports but most of his experience in journalism comes from football and volleyball. He has produced several works on major Championships for both the FIVB and CEV in the volleyball world out in Switzerland, and is currently studying for a BA Hons in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford.

Chelsea

Chelsea 4-0 Hull City – Willian plays himself into Champions League contention

Jake Jackman

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Chelsea

Chelsea continued their upturn in form with a convincing 4-0 win over Hull City in the FA Cup. The Blues were overwhelming favourites for the tie, but they had to get the job done and they did so effectively, scoring four times in the first-half.

They would have had one eye on the Champions League tie against Barcelona that is upcoming and that led to Antonio Conte making several changes.

The Italian decided to rest key players such as Eden Hazard, Ngolo Kante and Cesar Azpilicueta. It was the right decision as they progressed with comfort. Here are three talking points from the match:

Olivier Giroud is off the mark

One huge positive to come out of the game for the hosts was Olivier Giroud’s first goal for the club. He signed in January to provide competition for Alvaro Morata and his performances have been encouraging since signing, but to hit the back of the net takes the pressure off the Frenchman.

The signing carried relatively little risk for Chelsea as the striker has lots of experience in England and his consistency is already shining through in a Blues’ shirt.

Early into the game, he had a great opportunity to open his account, but he blazed a volley over the bar. It was a difficult chance as the ball was lifted over the defence to play him in, but a striker of his calibre should have done better.

Three goals were scored and he didn’t score one of them. If he had finished the match without scoring, it would have been talked about and that is why his goal just before half-time will relieve the pressure from him.

The rest of his game was excellent as he got two assists and linked up the play well from the front-line. Although he was brought in to be the back-up striker, Conte may give him the start against Barcelona as he is the player in form.

Hull City showed fight in the second half

The contest was over by the time the players stepped back out for the second-half, but Hull City showed fight and commitment to keep the score down to 4-0.

Nigel Adkins knows the importance of every mental victory when battling against relegation and to draw the second half can provide the players with confidence ahead of a return to league action.

Their performance was markedly improved as they created good opportunities and came close to scoring from the penalty spot. David Meyler stepped up and saw his penalty saved, but that didn’t see the players lose focus as they continued to create opportunities. During the match, they had 10 shots to Chelsea’s 14, which shows that they were far from embarrassed. They just didn’t have the quality in the final third that their Premier League opposition did possess.

It would be a huge blow for Hull City to suffer back-to-back relegations and their manager will be aware of that. This match against Chelsea was a good occasion, but it was far from a priority and their defeat won’t live too long in the memory.

They are currently 21st in the Championship and only above the bottom three by one point. Their far superior goal difference provides encouragement, but they must show this level of commitment until the end of the season if they are to avoid the drop.

Willian proved his quality before the return of the Champions League

Rotation can cause problems in the FA Cup, but in this case, it provided an opportunity to those that are on the fringes of the first-team to play themselves into contention for the Champions League.

Willian is an interesting case as he does feature prominently, but he isn’t a guaranteed first-team starter, as Pedro often gets the nod to start ahead of him.

Willian was excellent against Hull City and certainly gave his manager some food for thought ahead of the match with Barcelona. He completed six dribbles, attempted four shots and made three key passes as he terrorised the opposition defence. On the day, he scored twice, but he easily could have got a hat-trick.

Antonio Conte will be aware that his team’s big weakness is an over-reliance on Eden Hazard. The return of Cesc Fabregas goes some way to providing some support to the Belgian, but if Chelsea can get Willian playing to this level consistently, that would be a positive. He is more dynamic than Pedro and offers more flair to the attack. This performance could see him start against Barcelona.

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Chelsea

Chelsea 3-0 West Bromwich Albion: Three talking points from Stamford Bridge

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from Stamford Bridge as an Eden Hazard inspired Chelsea dismantled a struggling West Bromwich Albion side.

Rob Meech

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Chelsea eased the pressure on Antonio Conte after a brace from Eden Hazard saw off basement boys West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge.

It had been a troubling week for the Blues, following back-to-back heavy defeats against Bournemouth and Watford that had cast serious doubts over Conte’s position as manager.

But Hazard netted twice, either side of a goal from Victor Moses to complete a routine victory over the Baggies, who lost loan star Daniel Sturridge to injury after just three minutes.

Chelsea leapfrog Tottenham Hotspur into fourth spot as the battle for the top four heats up, while West Brom remain seven points adrift of safety.

Here are three talking points…

Talismanic Hazard comes to the rescue again

Just days after he was voted as Belgium’s player of the year by his peers, Hazard underlined his ability as a footballer of rare class with another brace to take his tally to 11 for the season.

Chelsea’s number 10 has an excellent scoring record against West Brom, one which he improved upon with a display that was too good for the Baggies to handle.

Hazard is a talismanic performer and when he hits his straps, the rest of the team feed off him.

Hazard combined with new boy Olivier Giroud to slam home his first of the evening, which eased the tension at Stamford Bridge.

The 27-year-old added his second and rounded off the scoring late in the second half, slamming the ball past visiting keeper Ben Foster.

Back in the top four as a result of this victory, Hazard will be the key to Chelsea’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

With him in their ranks, anything is possible.

Conte relieved as the pressure lifts

One man who will be extremely grateful for Hazard’s dazzling display is Conte.

The Italian seemed to be on the brink after last week’s 4-1 loss to Watford, which came hot on the heels of a similarly catastrophic result at home to Bournemouth.

Conte’s prickly demeanour and comments in press conferences had led some to speculate that he was goading the Chelsea board into sacking him, less than a year after he steered the club to the Premier League title.

Either way, it’s clear he retains the full support of the Stamford Bridge faithful, which was vocal in its support for Conte throughout the game, chanting his name with regularity.

Conte himself was typically demonstrative on the touchline, bellowing instructions and celebrating each of the goals as his players repaid him with an improved performance.

Whether he will be in the dugout next season remains to be seen, but for now at least his job is more secure than it was a week ago.

Sturridge’s World Cup audition falls flat

In front of watching England manager Gareth Southgate, Sturridge would have been hopeful of making a positive impression following his shock move to West Brom in the January window.

The Liverpool striker made the switch in order to enhance his prospects of making the World Cup squad, which will be named in little over three months’ time.

Few doubt Sturridge’s quality, but his fragile body continually struggles to hold up under the intensity of Premier League football.

His withdrawal due to a hamstring strain less than three minutes on the clock was a monumental blow, both to him personally and West Brom’s ambitions of springing a surprise against Chelsea.

Although he is expected to be sidelined for only a couple of weeks, this latest setback again raises questions over his durability.

Sturridge’s opportunities to prove he deserves to be on the plane to Russia are fast running out.

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Arsenal

Which four of the ‘big-six’ clubs will qualify for next season’s Champions League?

Martyn Cooke

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There are just 12 games remaining of the current Premier League season and, with Manchester City seemingly destined to secure the title, attention will now turn towards the battle to secure a place in the top-four.

There are only three places available to share between Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Liverpool and two of those clubs will be have to be content with competing in the Europa League next season.

Here, The Boot Room predicts who will finish in the top four at the end of the season…

Arsenal

There was once a time when the possibility of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal failing to qualify for the Champions League was unthinkable, yet the Gunners are facing the realistic possibility of missing out on playing in Europe’s elite club competition for the second consecutive season.

This campaign they have been held back by their inconsistent and unpredictable form away from home and are playing catch-up with their rivals with a five-point gap emerging between themselves and fourth place.

There is a new sense of optimism around the Emirates Stadium after Wenger added Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to his squad yet a defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday would all but end their hopes – qualifying through winning the Europa League could be a more realistic option.

Prediction: 6th

Manchester United

There is currently a slight sense of disappointment around Old Trafford this season that, despite obvious progress since the arrival of Jose Mourinho, the club have had to be content with seeing cross-city rivals Manchester City stroll their way towards the Premier League title.

It is difficult to imagine Manchester United missing out on a Champions League place as they already have a considerable buffer of seven points and undoubtedly have a squad that is full of quality and experience.

The arrival of Alexis Sanchez will provide additional impetus in the closing stages of the campaign and the only real danger is that their attention might be redirected towards challenging for the Champions League or FA Cup with the title already all but lost.

However, Mouirnho has his team ticking over nicely and it is likely that they will maintain their current league position.

Prediction: 2nd  

Chelsea

It has been a frustrating and increasing turbulent season at Stamford Bridge following the failure of Chelsea to build on last season’s title triumph.

Back-to-back defeats against Bournemouth and Watford have left the Blues clinging on to their place in the top four and there is now a realistic possibility that they may miss out on Champions League qualification.

Antonio Conte’s frustration with the club’s transfer policy has been clear to see since the summer and the off-pitch squabbling can only be a destabilising influence for the players.

Chelsea are certainly a team that are out of form and appear to be short of confidence and direction and it will be a true test of Conte’s managerial prowess to see if he can facilitate some sort of revival in the closing months of the season.

However, momentum is currently against them and they may well be one of the two clubs to miss out.

Prediction: 6th

Liverpool

You get the sense that it is always two steps forward followed by one step back at Anfield under Jurgen Klopp and you never know quite what to expect.

Liverpool continue to be consistently inconsistent as demonstrated by their recent, contrasting performances against Manchester City and Swansea City.

The arrival of Virgil van Dijk in the January transfer window is a boost, although recent games have suggested that he alone will not solve the club’s defensive frailties, whilst the sale of Phillip Coutinho is offset by the impressive array of attacking players that Klopp has collected.

If Liverpool can put together a good run of results then they will be able to capitalise on Antonio Conte’s woes as Chelsea and finish in the top four.

Prediction: 4th

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur supporters will now have a taste for Champions League football after the success of their team in this year’s competition and they are hitting form at just the right moment in the Premier League.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side are unbeaten since mid-December and have plenty of momentum with the inspirational figure of Harry Kane continuing to his remarkable, prolific run of form in front of goal.

Much will depend on whether the England striker can stay fit until the end of the season whilst they also need Dele Alli to rediscover the sparkle that he has lost in recent months.

Tottenham face a season-defining fixture on Saturday when they face Arsenal in the North London derby but they should have enough quality to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Prediction: 3rd

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