By Arkaprabha Chakraborty
When Joe Cole transferred to Liverpool in the summer of 2010, great things were expected of the player Steven Gerrard found reason to compare with Lionel Messi. After all, he had come off a dream season with Chelsea in 2009-10, being a crucial force 'in the hole' behind the two forwards as the Blues won their first ever League and Cup Double.
But then at Liverpool he had a nightmarish season under Roy Hodgson (as did the rest of the team), putting in insipid performances spiced with the odd goal here and there. Finally, Hodgson was sacked and King Kenny saw reason enough to drop him like a hot potato for most of the remaining half-season.
|Rejuvenated | Joe Cole recovered from his nightmare Liverpool season on loan with Lille|
Next year King Kenny saw fit to ship him off to Lille for a season-long loan and that was possibly the best decision he could have made. Cole had a complete revival and formed an intuitive partnership with Chelsea-player-to-be Eden Hazard and Idrissa Gueye as they terrorized Ligue 1, although they could manage only a third placed finish.
He ended the season as Lille's third highest scorer with 9 goals. And with that he has perhaps salvaged his Liverpool career with new manager Brendan Rodgers saying that the West Ham academy product is firmly in his plans for the 2012-13 season. But where would he be? What would he do?
To explore this question a little bit, let's talk a bit about Joe Cole and his career trajectory pre-Liverpool where we was played as a left winger. He was the most highly rated of the intensely talented West Ham academy Class of '98. He, along with Michael Carrick, was one of the few who tapped into that talent though, both making big moves from the Hammers later.
|Zola-esque| Cole effectively won Chelsea the title at Old Trafford with his goal|
He moved to the club he had supported through his childhood, Chelsea. There he began life on the left wing but steady desired and had the ability to play in a much more central attacking role. His strengths were his skill, his change of pace, his dribbling and in one-on-ones and a very accurate shot. It was only a matter of time till he became a trequartista to reckon with.
It was under Carlo Ancelotti that this metamorphosis was completed. Having played in 39 games in that Double winning season, Joe Cole was a cricual link in the attack, sitting just behind Drogba and Anelka and unlocking defences at will. His immortal contribution that season would be the backheeled goal past Van der Sar at Old Trafford to give Chelsea the lead in a game that was effectively the title decider.
So where would he fit in at Liverpool? In all likelihood, he will be the Gylfi Sigurdsson replacement in the formation we expect Rodgers to use and saw him use to such good effect at 'Swansealona'. But with Liverpool lining up in a 4-3-3 in their pre-season so far, one would expect him to begin on the left wing initially.
|The battle of the two Englishmen | Cole's position might invole him a battle with Downing
But with Fabio Borini coming in and expected to be the main striker, Cole will very likely end up swapping positions with the speedy Italian. If this is the case then we will see a fluid forward three , with Cole in the hole and Borini and Suarez further up front to aim at. Ultimately, it's a competition between Cole and Downing for that left attacking slot and with both of them severely underwhelming in Red, it might end up being a case of choosing the lesser evil.
In all likelihood Joe Cole will get the nod over Downing initially, with the former Aston Villa man having done worse than nothing over the course of the last 12 months. But then if Joe Cole puts in the same disjointed performances as he has in the past, expect him to not be seen around much. Only Joe Cole himself can decide what role he has in the team this coming season.
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