Class is permanent for Ashley Cole


Class is permanent for Ashley Cole

Times have been tough for the Ashley Cole this season; considered the best left-back in the world 10 months ago, and now, not even good enough to start in Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea XI. But, when called upon, the 33-year old has proved class is permanent. Cole provided another faultless performance on the big occasion against Liverpool on Sunday, reminding England manager Roy Hodgson exactly why he should start against Italy on 14 June, let alone be given a plane ticket to the World Cup in Brazil this summer.

Whereas Mourinho has since restored the faith in his old-guard captain John Terry, the opposite can be said for Cole – the emergence of Cesar Azpilicueta the reason for his decline in the Chelsea peaking order.

Set to move

Whilst Coles future looks set to be away from the Bridge next season, there is no doubt that this summer should see the left-back competing in his fourth and final World Cup. Having been given only 13 minutes football in the last two months, the 33-year old has suddenly found himself playing in two of Chelsea’s biggest games this season. The first, an intimidating prospect away to Atletico Madrid in their Champions League semi-final first-leg and the second, Sunday’s pivotal Premier League title face-off at Liverpool.

There aren’t too many players who can go out without stabilisers and return riding a Harley Davidson, but Cole is certainly among them. Most have written off Cole’s chances this summer, favouring Leighton Baines and issuing a one-sided tug of war between Southampton’s Luke Shaw and Chelsea’s forgotten man Cole. But after watching 180 minutes of Cole for Chelsea, the tussle is, in fact between Baines and Shaw for the coveted final boarding pass.

Big stage performer

A performance on the big stage is what we’ve come to expect from Cole, someone who has now been at the top of his game for nearly a decade. Age has proved to be no hurdle in his latest two outings, instead he has matched up to the artistry of Gabi, Koke and Diego and used his killer defensive instincts to thwart any attempts from Raheem Sterling, 14-years younger, in using his raw pace to hurt the Chelsea back four.

There is no denying that both Shaw and Baines possess a graver threat on the offensive, but the same cannot be said for their defensive abilities. Having drawn a tough group alongside Italy and Uruguay, both higher in the FIFA world rankings than England, and Costa Rica completing the group, there isn’t time to gamble for Hodgson.

It has been a fantastic breakthrough season for 18-year old Shaw, named in the PFA Team of the Year, but for all the praise the Southampton left back has received, his stats fail to inspire. He may provide an excellent outlet on the counter, but he is without a goal or has only one messily assist to show all season. Cole has one more assist from 18 fewer games, and isn’t known for his bombarding runs from defence.

Shaw’s time will come

Shaw’s time will come, but this, just a step too soon for the inexperienced youngster.

For Baines, it has just been unfortunate timing. Grown into a generation alongside the immovable Cole, allowed only, to live in the shadow, as the Chelsea left back moved into exclusive England 100 club. Baines remains one of England’s finest strikers of the ball, deadly from set piece situations and consistent from wide areas. But even he’s only laid three goals onto his Everton team mates this season, and unless we are looking to play a target man in the form of either Andy Carroll or Rickie Lambert, is there much point of having someone capable of whipping in delivers to strikers who would rather have ball to feet?

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