Joe Cole’s Return: Mistake or Masterstroke
What will Joe Cole's impact be now he is back at West Ham, the club he left as a 22 year old in 2003. Today on the blog the guys from FootballInNumbers take a look at how the veteran has immediately influenced the play of his "new" old club.
Joe Cole left West Ham in May 2003; the world seemingly at his feet. He was considered the best of a star studded group to come out of the famous West Ham academy, and even though he played well at Chelsea during the peak years of his career, he never quite fulfilled his billing as the new Paul Gascoigne.
Was his talent overrated? Did he lack work ethic? Was Chelsea the wrong team? Cole by no means had a bad career but it never exploded like many thought. Now he's back at his boyhood club and looking to add a glorious final chapter to his career. Here I’m going to look at his first three games and we’ll see what that tells us about his future: an Allardyce mistake or masterstroke?
Cole was lauded as a wonderful technician and a playmaker who can turn a game. This has proven an overstatement. Certainly Cole is international class technically and has a great work ethic but his ability to unlock defences and offer consistent penetration has never materialised. It will be interesting to see what he offers West Ham and how Sam Allardyce will utilise him.
Cole’s first game against Manchester United in the FA Cup produced two assists in a draw, it was immediately lauded in the media as the return of the messiah. It is in his next two league games with the help of the 4-4-2 app that we can properly assess his impact. Allardyce played him out wide right, this is clearly where he sees his position.
West Ham at Sunderland
Cole’s first Premier League game for West Ham was away at Sunderland. It was a game West Ham lost 3 – 0 but one in which they played reasonably well. West Ham had more possession and out-passed Sunderland. Cole, as expected, was tidy and technical. He completed by far the most passes of any player on the pitch (48 out of 58) and he was second in attacking third passes with 13 only one behind Stephane Sessegnon.
He created three chances, although two were from corners; the penetration wasn’t quite there but this game showed us West Ham have a player they can look to for ball retention and quality. A promising start at a difficult away ground.
West Ham vs QPR
Cole’s second game showed a different side to his game. At Sunderland West Ham were under pressure and his ball retention eased the burden on them but in his second Premier League game against QPR Cole was required to consistently affect the game in the final third – which he did well.
QPR sat back and allowed the West Ham back four and Noble to dictate the passing. Cole needed to receive the ball in the final third and turn territory into chances. Cole received the ball a lot (see the first screen grab below) and kept the ball as expected (second screen grab).
Cole received the ball in good areas but he wasn’t particularly penetrative. He didn’t get the ball into the penalty area. QPR had a packed defence and it wasn’t an easy task, instead of blindly swinging the ball into the box; Cole was retaining possession for his team (unlike Jarvis whose modus operandi was to hopefully swing cross after cross into the box).
Cole's Influence and Impact
A beneficiary of his ability and intelligence was Guy Demel. The right back was given space and time to deliver crosses into the box (see below for Demel’s crossing against Sunderland and QPR). So although Cole may not be making key passes into the box he is setting up Demel to do just that.
Another key element to Cole's game is retaining and holding the ball in the final third - something that was beyond Vaz Te or Matt Taylor. This is useful because it allows West Ham to advance up the pitch and allows them to get players into the box to receive crosses.
Cole is a technically gifted player who can keep the ball in difficult games, provide chances and hold a high position to affect the game. He will unquestionably be a key player for West Ham this season and probably for a few seasons to come.
I can see two futures now for Joe Cole. His first future is as a tidy and industrious wide player who retains possession and continually recycles the ball into his midfielders and full back. His second is an explosive and dynamic player who uses his significant talents to penetrate and be one of the top 20 attacking players in the league.
He has bedded in well at West Ham but I’m certain there is another level of performance he can go to. One thing is for sure, Cole will be desperate to put a colourful footnote to a career that could have been so much more.
The Odds: West Ham are best priced at odds of 8.00 with bet365 and Skybet to win tonight at Arsenal while best priced at odds of 3.75 with BetVictor and Stan James to complete a top 10 finish in the Premier League this season.
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Yeah but a lot of work will need to be done on Coutinho. Inter had high hopes for him but he never managed to express his potential. He does lack drive and is easily intimidated. Sterling and Borini are more valid elements in the current Liverpool squad.
Although, one thing must be said is that Rodgers is following the policy of getting players young and shifting the old out. It seems like both Carra and Gerrard will be the veterans on this team.
I had hopes Rodgers would appreciate a player like Cole but apparently he did not. Now they were looking to bring in Coutinho, who is basically the same player as Joe Cole but less confident and younger.
Virtually for free as Liverpool paid Joe Cole to leave. Oh my, that was certainly bad business for Liverpool and nothing to lose for Big Sam, although having said that West Ham are really on a slump period. So it's good that they are going to have a break to regroup over the FA Cup period.
One of the few English players with genuine quality when the ball is in his feet. Usually England does not produce much like him. Lost himself on the way though due to a combination of factors - managers not understanding his style and him not making the effort. West Ham does give him the right vibrations and we should see him become leader of this side in the coming months. Good investment by Big Sam.
Back in East London where he belongs, even his last game against West Ham saw him score a vital goal for Liverpool so he loves scoring for and against West Ham. He will be a vital player as long as he plays and played in a position that is effective. His welcome is certainly a happy reunion and I see it go well with the fans and the club.
A pal of mine, who goes to watch the Hammers everywhere, is genuinely delighted that this "old boy" has returned home. He does seem to still be a classy player, and has responded to the adulation that the fans have given him with some half decent displays. However, you can't help but wonder if someone who was fairly slow when fully fit five or six years ago, and has certainly got several yards slower since, has any long term future in the premiership!