There was a stat going around over the weekend that out of Antonio Conte’s 50 Premier League games in charge of Chelsea, César Azpilicueta has played every single minute, which is pretty remarkable.
Azpilicueta has played every minute of every one of Conte's 50 Premier League games as Chelsea manager. What a machine #cfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) November 18, 2017
Marcos Alonso can’t be too far behind either, having had the left wing-back position on lockdown since the famous switch to the 3-4-3 system after the first six games of last season. In fact, without a real backup — Kenedy sort of counts, but not really — Alonso has had to not only stay healthy (which he has done), but put in tireless shift after tireless shift (which, by and large, he has also done) in one of the most crucial and intensive position in the tactical setup. Last season, that task was somewhat feasible with only domestic commitments, but this season, with the added burden of midweek European games, Alonso’s efforts are approaching Herculean heights.
“It is going to be a tough period now, not just this week. Everyone knows how the Christmas period is in England. We will have a game every three days between now and the start of February. Sometimes we will not be 100 per cent but each player has to help the team. We have to be well prepared and very focused. Is the fixture schedule Chelsea’s biggest obstacle this season? Yes, there are so many matches. We are getting kicks in games, we get tired, so recovery is very important.”
For now however, Alonso insists that he’s able to recover to just about 100 per cent after each game, even if some tiredness does creep in.
“It is hard for me because it is a difficult position. I do a lot of running so sometimes it is not easy. In some games, when I get the ball I am not as fresh as I would like.
“If there is any point I don’t feel I can help the team, I will tell the manager I’m tired. But I’m feeling good. I take the opportunity to rest when I can and work with the medical team to be 100 per cent for each game.”
Alonso (1466 min) is currently second behind Azpilicueta (1515 min) in terms of total non-goalkeeping minutes and there’s unlikely to be any relief until at least January, if not next summer — Kenedy’s not trusted beyond League Cup games and is currently injured anyway; Baba Rahman’s still recovering from a bad ACL tear; and the likes of Moses or Pedro or Azpilicueta are half-solutions at best.
If the team keep winning however, that can help inspire continued tireless performances.
“Yes, we have been playing with a bit more of a smile. We are in a good moment after the win against United. That was a big one for us and has given us the confidence to keep winning.”
-Marcos Alonso; source: Evening Standard