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Ashley Cole: Chelsea's Difference-Maker

May 09, 2010 - 05884383 date 09 05 2010 Copyright imago BPI Ashley Cole Celebrates The Fourth Goal with Goal Scorer Nicolas Anelka of Chelsea 4 0 PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxFRAxNEDxESPxSWExPOLxCHNxJPN men Football 2009 England Premier League Action shot Vdig xub 2010 horizontal Highlight premiumd Football.

Love him or hate him, Ashley Cole is the best at his position in England, and arguably the world. While this has been the case for many years (although I’m sure the Evra family might object), under Carlo Ancelotti Cole has transformed from an indefatigable left-back to an integral cog in Chelsea’s attacking strategy.

Fullbacks are an important aspect of any back four, of course, and the manner in which a manager utilizes this versatile position reveals their attacking intent. Overlapping fullbacks are a staple of most attacking outfits, combining with the wide men to enter dangerous space, or simply to drag defenders out of position to allow attackers more freedom to cut open a defense.

Ashley Cole has been the standard for the fullback position for years now. His tireless work on the left flank for Arsenal gave the Gunners that extra option in attack as he would race to the byline and whip in a decent cross, or simply (as stated above) supply an extra body the defenders had to acknowledge. It was always Cole’s unique ability to both know the right time to join the attack, and then to have the stamina to get back into sound defensive position in the event his team quickly lost possession. This is what has made him the best left-back in England for over a decade. Not to mention his ability to make Ronaldo and Messi look ordinary on more than one occasion.

But under Ancelotti, when Chelsea are in attack Cole has evolved into an auxiliary winger. On paper, the Blues line up in a formation much like this:

We can argue about slight variances, but this is essentially the formation Chelsea use. Within this basic framework, there is an abundance of movement between Drogba, Anelka, Malouda, and Lampard. Particularly those front three, and particularly when the Blues are playing an inferior team, as they have in the first three matches of this Premier League season. When Chelsea are dominating possession, the triumvirate of Drogba, Anelka and Malouda can meander about, dropping deep, going wide, playing high, basically anywhere they can positively affect play.

But with the liberty Ancelotti has granted these three, their tendencies often lean towards playing up the middle. Anelka is a natural central striker, as is Drogba, and for Malouda, he wants to play up the middle to more heavily influence the game, which has transformed him into one of the PL’s best players. These tendencies leave Chelsea a very narrow team at times.

Ancelotti has rectified this would-be problem by ordering Cole to act as his width.

Cole is no longer simply making those blazing, overlapping runs from deep, but he is being stationed on the left of midfield when Chelsea are in attack. He is a full member of the attack, maintaining some semblance of width for the side. We are seeing new runs from Cole: acute diagonal runs from shallower positions, deeper overlaps to release HIM into scoring positions, and coming infield to join Lampard and Malouda in attack.

In the first half of Chelsea’s 2-0 win against Stoke, Cole put on a masterclass of this “new-found” position. Perhaps Stoke aided in this by playing a back 5 with wingbacks and CB’s that rarely looked on the same page, but credit Cole for exploiting such weaknesses. Stoke could not cope with Cole’s attacking forays, and not for the first time this season, Chelsea’s best move of the first half found Cole on the end of it. A quick back-and-forth of possession led to Michael Essien placing an inch-perfect pass through to Cole, who scuffed his shot wide. The fullback was playing higher than any forward on the move.

Stamford Bridge, Chelsea v Stoke City, Premier League 28/08/2010  Ashley Cole of Chelsea hits the crossbar with this effort Photo Marc Atkins Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Later, Drogba dropped deep and wide, while Cole raced into the box on an acute diagonal from the touchline. Drogba did well to lob a 15-yard ball over two defenders and find Cole, who, running towards the goal, one-time lashed it from midair on to the crossbar. A phenomenal attack, which underlines Cole’s new role in the high-flying Chelsea attack.

There are few elite fullbacks who can take on the responsibility of being a dual-role player. Brilliant attacker, miserly defender, Cole has pulled it off with flying colors, and Chelsea are the great benefactor.

Any thoughts?  Leave your comments below.

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  1. Patrick Dresslar

    August 30, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Is anyone else having the problem of not being able to go to “previous” or “older posts” on the main page?


    • The Gaffer

      August 30, 2010 at 9:19 pm

      Yep, we’re working on trying to fix it. Sorry for the inconvenience.

      The Gaffer

  2. sammie

    August 30, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    please Carlo i wish u can hear me now!
    please make a last minute deal for a central defender and a goal keeper now! or u regret it!
    injuries will definitely come…as u progress with CL u need to be in your best to win…or else it would be another near miss! the likes of Barcelona and real are just increasing the depths of their team positions for just that.
    please the chelsea management board should open their eyes wide…do not over depend on the young and inexperienced stars to give u what u looking for1 the FA and carling cup should be left entirely to them to gain confidence for next season.

  3. Asondgreat

    August 30, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I can’t wait to see A. Cole on the left wing and Bosingwa on the right wing destroying other clubs. Infact,chelsea fc is reall the best club.

  4. Akinyemi

    August 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Frank lampard& ferera need a replacement, b/cos dey are getting older & tired. Infact, lampard has finished and undepedable &need to be offload.

  5. magoha Raphael

    August 30, 2010 at 5:45 am

    Dear all,
    Chelsea now is flying and i have not see any Team cto compare with as it has alot of tarented with fully skills see A. Cole, Malouda, Dider, Anelka, Ivanon, Jose Bosingwa atc which good for Carlo as they could be able to alternate esp Invano and Bosingwa.

  6. Paulie

    August 30, 2010 at 4:15 am

    Why not play Bosingwa on the right wing(7) since he is know for his attacking prowess? He was a natural midfielder when he started his career so i feel his best position for chelsea should be right of midfield.

    Blues 4 life !!!

  7. wisesageknowledge

    August 30, 2010 at 1:59 am

    I feel as though we have forgotten the BosMan and his brilliance. Bosingwa certainly doesn’t have the physicality or aerial dominnace of Iva, but he is quicker AND faster AND has better ball control AND passing AND crossing – I guess I am saying they both have their strengths. Jose has been out a year, so he will certainly won’t be at the same level he was at before his spell out of the team, but he will have his place. He is more of a European defender, while Iva is a better option for the domestic matches. It was Iva that caught out and unable to cope with Etoo last season in the CL. Either way, BosMan back is certainly a good problem to have.

  8. Patrick Dresslar

    August 29, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Brian – couldn’t agree more.

  9. Brian

    August 29, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Ivanovic is the RB even when Bosingwa comes back. No ones knows how Bosingwa will fit into this side, and he even appeared to fall out of favor with Ancelotti when Carlo first took the reigns. It’s Ivan’s job to lose really, should it take one match or 20.

    Anyway, back to the hero of the day. Cole in a blue shirt has been superb, and Saturday’s match his first half was among the best I can remember in recent memory. His easily would have won goal of the year again had he finished that volley, and he could have had a brace on the night!

    I couldn’t care less about his personal life and neither should England supporters; he was the best of the Three Lions in Africa and has been class through and through for club and country for years.

    • Robert

      August 29, 2010 at 10:33 pm

      I too enjoy Ivanovic’s play at right back, and I have almost forgotten Bosingwa’s form. I’m not certain, however, that he won’t find a place–since Carvalho was sold, there are only 3 legitimate choices for 2 centre back positions: Terry, Alex, Ivanovic. Depending on the fitness level of those three over all competitions, I fully expect Bosingwa to pick up where he left off on the right. (Bruma is probably a good option during FA/Carling Cup matches, but he needs more experience before he starts in a meaningful match.)

      Had Carvalho not been sold, or rather, had Carlo not slowly pushed Carvalho out, then Bosingwa would probably struggle to find a place in the starting lineup.

  10. Thom k

    August 29, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    For now I can see only one flank working for Chelsea, more danger to come from both side when Bosingwa arrived & the way am seen things they are not all inform yet. Chelsea will prove their quality now, for world to see blues up.

  11. Patrick Dresslar

    August 29, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Not sure how much Chelsea you watch, but Malouda is hardly a touchline-hugging “winger.” Yesterday against Stoke, for example, he made a direct run through the center for his goal from Terry. Most of his goals come from the middle of the park, not cutting in like a traditional winger. He plays in the middle of the park more often than not.

  12. Duke

    August 29, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Whether or not Malouda wants to play in the middle, he seems to spend an awful lot of time between the penalty area and the left touchline.

    Just sayin’…

  13. Patrick Dresslar

    August 29, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    I’ve actually been pleased with Ivanovic’s play at fullback. He does the job very well and puts in decent crosses, rarely are they ballooned over or too erratic. Plus, he is a great defender, and Ancelotti will not play both fullbacks in the same way because that is too risky.

    When Bosingwa comes back, it should be interesting to see what Ancelotti does with Cole. I’m sure he will show much more restraint, but I think that would be a shame, because I am enjoying Cole’s play of late. He has been fantastic since coming back from ankle injury last year, and was the only decent England player over the summer.

  14. JamesTQuirk

    August 29, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    If you think about it though Chelsea only have one flank to work with. Until Bosingwa comes back Chelsea dont have an attacking rightback. Ivanovic can get forward but his crossing is iffy and he isnt as fast as Bosingwa (the less said of old man Ferreria the better?). Even when Bosingwa comes back there will still be one flank to work with as it seems Chelsea’s mid 3 are quite fluid and God knows where you find Anelka most of the time so Bosingwa wont have a partners to work with or build upon. Imagining Chelsea with two such flanks isnt pleasant so I am glad its just limited to one.

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