We know it's terribly fashionable to pretend to know everything at the drop of a hat about every footballer on the planet these days. We are not too proud to admit that we don't, though. Rather than pretend we do, we just prefer to ask someone who knows more than we do. We are radical like that...
So, with the signing of Marcos Alonso secured, we dropped Mark Yesilevskiy a line to quiz him on the latest pretender to Michael Gray's Sunderland left back throne. Mark was formerly with the SBN dedicated Bolton Wanderers blog Lion Of Vienna Suite, and is very much an old and trusted friend of Roker Report.
So then, Marcos Alonso. Could you start off my giving us a brief description in a sentence or two?
Mark: Marcos Alonso was, in the tradition of Bolton Wanderers men at the back, a defender who was not great at defending. That said, he has a hell of a lot of potential.
I think that a lot of people will look at how long it took him to establish himself at Bolton and worry. What was the story of his days at the Reebok?
Mark: Honestly, I wouldn't worry about how long it took him to break into the Bolton side.
In his time at the Reebok, Alonso played under two managers that talked a very big game about employing youth and bringing players through the system into the first team but rarely did. Owen Coyle preferred more experienced players and would employee either Paul Robinson or Sam Ricketts in the left back slot with the latter playing out of position from his favored right side.
Dougie Freedman did much the same for the start of his Bolton tenure before making the switch to Alonso. That, particularly, was a shame given his performances later on in the season coupled with the (relatively) princely sum that the Trotters paid for him.
What would you say are his main strengths as a footballer?
Mark: Alonso's strengths, at least in his time at Bolton, were definitely skewed more toward the attacking side of his position than the defending it required. Alonso was very good at overlapping the left winger and bombing down the sideline. He liked putting a cross into the box or cutting diagonally inside and having a shot. It was that kind of play that saw him score four times in some 26 league appearances (30 across all competitions last season).
He also had a penchant for taking the free kicks for Bolton, especially when Chris Eagles was out of the side. Although he came close on a number of occasions, he never scored one (as far as I can remember) for the Trotters.
And what does he need to work at, and how much work is needed?
Mark: As a footballer, especially as a left back, Marcos Alonso has to work on his defending. It will be interesting to see if he learned anything from his time in Italy in that regard. He got better at guarding the flank as last season wore on but he was by no means great it. Alonso could probably stand to get stronger and to work on his positioning, especially when dragged out wide to mark an onrushing winger.
Gus Poyet is developing a system at Sunderland that places tremendous attacking importance on the full backs, essentially asking them to be touchline-hugging wingers when in possession. It's a big ask demanding delivery, defending and mobility. Is Alonso up to it?
Mark: If that is what Poyet wants, Marcos Alonso may well be the right man for the job. He's young, he's got (some) pace, and he loves getting forward. Poyet saw this firsthand while managing Brighton in a match at Bolton's Reebok Stadium last season. That match ended 1-0 to the Whites thanks to a low drive from Alonso, stood at the corner of the area midway through the first half.
The match was one the defender's high points last season and the current Sunderland boss witnessed it from start to finish. Alonso may struggle with the defending aspect of Poyet's demands but the boss's Brighton sides were always well drilled and perhaps he could knock some sense into the Spanish defender.
Final question: Good signing for Sunderland?
Mark: I do think that Alonso is a good signing for Sunderland but I don't think that he should be relied on in defence. It looks to be a smart move from Poyet though.
Big thanks to Mark for helping us out!