Still Trying To Figure Out Joe Cole….
The rebuilding process is underway for Liverpool, started in January with the acquisition of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, it has continued into the summer with a ringing endorsement from owner John Henry, who said that his club will prioritise the fut…
The rebuilding process is underway for Liverpool, started in January with the acquisition of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, it has continued into the summer with a ringing endorsement from owner John Henry, who said that his club will prioritise the future, and not just look for short term benefit. This does seem to be true; Carroll and Suarez are 22 and 24 respectively, while none of the three big off-season signings, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing, are aged above 26. Furthermore, these players, with the exception of Suarez, are from these shores, signalling the rise of a fresh new home-grown era on Merseyside.
The British revolution has begun at Anfield under Kenny Dalglish a full year after it was threatening to begin under Roy Hodgson. Hodgson initiated the beginning of what promised to be a youthful and vibrant era after the club had released itself from the shackles of the melancholy remains of Rafael Benitez. The feeling of optimism was compounded with the removal of George Gillett and Tom Hicks to the new ownership of that of NEWSI and Hodgson set about signing promising British talent to signify this was indeed the dawning of something special rather than an immediate fix. 22 year old Defender Danny Wilson came in from Rangers, while Jonjo Shelvey, a highly promising 18 year old midfielder, was gained from Charlton. The disastrous signing of Fulham’s Paul Konchesky was another deal in keeping with a home-grown transfer policy, but it was the capture of Joe Cole, taken on a bosman after his release from Chelsea, which was the brochure cover picture of Hodgson’s brave new Liverpool.
Cole was supposed to be the man who spearheaded Liverpool’s attempt to get back into the top four after the club had fallen to seventh in the final year of Benitez’s guide. He was fit and rejuvenated, fresh from going to a World Cup with England and had even performed well for Chelsea in his final year, playing 39 times as his club won the domestic double. It was advertised as a major coup, Liverpool players queued up to sing his praises and he was handed the number 10 shirt despite its original intention to be worn by Milan Jovanovic. Fast forward a year and Cole finds himself the forgotten man at Anfield. No longer the poster-boy, it has been a dramatic turn of fortunes for the player many decreed was the most technically gifted player of England’s Golden generation.
His Premier League season started off ominously when he was sent off on the opening day for a bad challenge on Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and it never really recovered. He had to wait until mid-September for his first Liverpool goal, against Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League, and it was an even longer wait for his first Premier League goal, coming in a 2-1 win over Bolton on New Years’ day. Kenny Dalglish took over soon after and Cole went on to make just one league start under the Scot for the remainder of the season, it was clear that he was out of favour even with Steve Clarke, the coach for whom he produced his best form with Chelsea, sitting alongside Dalglish in the dugout.
This summer has been a very difficult one for Cole, the signing of Downing and that of Suarez in January suggests that there is no space for him on the wings and the centre of midfield has also been fully stocked with the signings of Adam and Henderson. The consensus is that one of those newly acquired two will play alongside Lucas Leiva in deep midfield, and Steven Gerrard will occupy the attacking midfield role behind Carroll, with Suarez and Downing taking their places either side of Gerrard in a 4-2-3-1 system. It is difficult to imagine where Cole fits into this plan, even before Dalglish’s strong reluctance to play the midfielder is taken into account.
Cole is a very talented, skill-full midfielder, of that claim it is very difficult to make a counter argument, but the problem with Cole is that nobody knows where his best position actually is. His best form was produced for Chelsea playing out wide in Jose Mourinho’s 4-3-3 system, but a fracture in his foot towards the end of 2006 and a serious injury suffered to the knee in a league cup tie at Southend two years later reduced his effectiveness in a position where pace is of increasing importance in the modern game. Plus, Cole was never an out-and-out winger, hence why Sven Goran Eriksson fielded him on the left of his midfield four in the Germany World Cup to take full advantage of his constant desire to move in-field, onto his stronger foot in that case.
On his return to the Chelsea side in the Autumn of 2009 under Carlo Ancelotti, the Italian decided to field Cole where the player believes he is most effective, in the advanced role just behind the striker. From there, he turned in an excellent performance in creativity against Blackburn where he had a hand in creating five goals, but he could not sustain it and Ancelotti deemed him surplus to requirement. And so, he headed to Liverpool, with Yossi Benayoun heading in the opposite direction. The Isreali looks to be in a much stronger position than Cole going into the new season, after a year in which he had a long injury layoff, he returned to finish strongly in tandem with his old Liverpool partner, Fernando Torres.
The difference between them is that Benayoun does possess the commodity of having an attached position, that of just-off the striker, whereas Cole does not. It may be argued that Cole does not have the discipline to remain in a de-facto position or that he is equally adept in a number of them, giving managers the licence to shift him from place to place. Either way, in a year where has gone from the main attraction going through the Anfield entrance door, to being the one that could be pushed through the exit to make way for the new batch of exciting recruits, he still remains a dilemma that even King Kenny may fail to solve.
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