Marcos Alonso gave a glimpse into Antonio Conte’s plan to turn Chelsea back into Premier League title contenders with a pivotal role in his side’s 2-0 win at Hull on Saturday.
Alonso was favoured over Branislav Ivanovic in a new-look three man defensive formation which despite a distinctly uneasy start, ultimately served up the Blues’ second clean sheet of the season.
It was the Spaniard’s first league start for the club since his deadline day signing from Fiorentina and a major gamble by Conte after successive top-flight defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal.
But according to Alonso, concentration was key in the way his side overcame a disappointing first-half performance to ease to victory with goals from Willian and Diego Costa around the hour mark.
Alonso told Chelsea’s official website: ‘It’s the first game I’ve started in the Premier League for Chelsea, we got three points and a clean sheet so I’m very happy.
‘We’ve been conceding a lot of goals and against Hull we were concentrated for 90 minutes and kept a clean sheet so that was good.”
Conte may have been questioning his decision in the early stages when the dreadfully exposed David Luiz gave away a free-kick from which Robert Snodgrass almost opened the scoring.
His rearguard looked anything but resolute in the opening stages and had goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to thank for another fine save from Ryan Mason which kept them on level terms at the break.
But in the second half Chelsea were rarely troubled with Willian picking up a pass from Costa before bending a delicious 61st-minute opener past Hull keeper David Marshall to give his side the lead.
And just six minutes later the home challenge was effectively over when Costa himself got on the scoresheet with a similar goal from the left side of the box.
Conte hailed his side’s commitment and urged them to trust in his methods as he seeks to slowly rebuild confidence after last season’s turbulent Premier League campaign.
Conte said: “We have different options in this situation and it think it’s normal that all the players must be involved in the project – the young players and older players together.
“Chelsea is a great team and I tried to choose the best for the team. Together we will win and lose, but it is important to work together and to trust and to follow.”
Hull caretaker boss Mike Phelan admitted he is looking forward to the international break as he looks to seal his future at the KCOM Stadium after stalling on new contract talks.
Phelan clearly has no doubts over his side’s potential having found plenty of positives despite the Chelsea loss and recent heavy defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal.
But he is determined to receive assurances over all aspects of his prospective role before his side’s next game against Bournemouth in a fortnight’s time.
Phelan said: “It’s more than just being a manager of a football club. There’s a lot of things to talk about and a lot of things I want to know going forward – where I can go with this team.
“To be honest I think the players have responded magnificently and I think the supporters have been terrific.
“I’m not shying away from the challenge. It’s hard in this division. We’re a newly promoted team but we have some decent quality players and we just need to be competitive for a longer period of time.
“We have a spell now to regroup and learn those harsh lessons that we’ve had, and kick on towards Christmas.”