Back in July, Joe Cole‘s fee-less saunter between Chelsea and Liverpool looked like one of the shrewdest pieces of business conducted over the entire summer, the spark required to reignite a damp powder keg of a squad, yet somehow the sporadically spellbinding midfielder has since made his free transfer look like a bad deal.
Cole is yet to win a league game in Liverpool red, having missed the 1-0 win over West Brom through suspension, and along with the majority of his ailing teammates, has found his form fluctuating wildly between ‘ineffective’ and ‘looking like he’s missing a part of his frontal cortex’ – a fact which is not lost on the man himself;
“I have never had a period like this before. It is all new territory for me, but it is a challenge and life is never easy.
I am looking at myself, nobody else. I need to do a lot better for the club and every minute of every day I am thinking about how I can get there again. I am desperate to do well for Liverpool.
We are not playing well, I am not playing well. I need to find my form somehow. I expect better from myself.
I know that I am at a club that is going to help me through it. In these situations, the worst thing you can do is start pointing fingers at each other. We have got to look at ourselves.”
Cole also admitted that, whilst he is making a conscientious effort to improve his individual performances, hauling Liverpool out of the relegation zone will take a huge collective effort;
“We have had a tough start and a bad start with results. We are where we are and we have got to change it. We have got to dig deep.
The right thing to do is try and grind out that first win and take it from there. We are right behind [Roy Hodgson]. We all believe in the team and the club.”
Many fans have already grown tired with Cole’s impotent displays, dismissing him as having flattered to deceive during his spell at Stamford Bridge or by labelling him as a ‘sacred cow’ of sorts, but former Liverpool striker John Aldridge has lauded the maligned winger’s ‘guts’ at being willing to admit that he’s been a bit sh*t of late – telling the Liverpool Echo;
“Supporters are not stupid and they know when players are not at the top of their game but, from time to time, you get some individuals who try to pull the wool over people’s eyes.
Joe’s admission that he is experiencing the worst run of form in his career, though, made it clear that he is not interested in hiding and it took guts to make a statement like that after losing at the home of your biggest rivals.”
Aldridge also admitted that tactical decisions may not be helping Cole’s cause in his bid to win over his new supporters;
“Perhaps he is a victim of circumstance at the minute and being asked to fill a role on the left wing is not what many would have envisaged him doing at present.”
Whereas praising a player for his performance in a post-match interview after failing to get his act together during the proceeding 90 minutes smacks of clutching at proverbial straws, Aldridge’s notion that Cole has been restricted by being stationed on the flank contains an element of truth – as is not, nor has ever really been, a particularly potent winger. More a playmaker in the mould of Gascoigne.
Given the players who are currently at Hodgson’s disposal, surely a midfield consisting of Raul Meireles patrolling in front of the defense (which should contain Daniel Agger – if fit- by default), Steven Gerrard doing his inspirational bit by driving from the middle and then Cole lending the struggling Fernando Torres a skillful hand in and around the area seem to be the obvious set-up? Or is it just me?
The link between the three strata of Liverpool’s midfield spine is crucial, and to that end Gerrard – as good as he has been of late – is currently wasted or, at the very least, restricted when playing behind Torres because there’s nobody able to feed him the crafted passes that he used to receive from the artisan boots of Xabi Alonso (it’s a tired point, but it’s sadly still relevant).
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Gerrard is better when stationed just off Torres, but the current squad just doesn’t allow for that kind of luxury. Liverpool need to deploy their captain in a much more involved ‘position’ without diluting his influence by forcing him to play two separate roles – therefore freeing Cole to perform as nature intended.
As such, the current central strand of the Liverpool midfield unit (Lucas/Poulsen, Meireles, Gerrard) is built on unstable foundations although, with a bit of re-jig, it’s well within Hodgson’s means to begin cementing a workable system – and by God, does he need to do it quickly.
I know this is already a fairly laboured debate amongst supporters, but the point is that it should have been resolved by now. Flexibility is the way forward – not Christian Poulsen.