The Joe Cole Conundrum

Definitions of Enigma found on the Web:

  • Riddle: a difficult problem.
  • Mystery: something that baffles understanding and cannot be explained.

There is no better single word in the English language that defines Joe Cole.

Thrust into the limelight at West Ham back in 1998, Joe Cole exploded into the scene aged just 17.

Hailed as the next Gazza, and coveted by Alex Ferguson, Cole was touted as the hottest prospect in English football.

It was Claudio Ranieri who signed Joe from West Ham in 2003 for £6 million, but it was Jose Mourinho who got the best out of him.

During the 2005-06 season he played some of his finest football football for Chelsea, culminating with a beautiful goal in the World Cup 2006, and was one of the only players to return home to media praise.

Injuries largely disrupted his following years affecting both fitness and form, and with the Premiership being a far different beast to that of 1998, more cultured defenders were wise to his step-overs, preference for cutting inside, and generally predictable play.

Joe always claimed his best position was behind the strikers, yet to play such a position relies on the player seeing runs and playing balls through to the strikers, or wingers.

Sadly Cole, more often than not tries to beat the man in front of him and either loses the ball, or is crowded out. It’s his inability to make the simplest of football decisions, opting for the ‘flash’ option too often which lets him down.

Now aged 28, and with over a decade of top flight football under his belt, he still doesn’t know his best position, and his game hasn’t really evolved nor adapted to the changing demands of the Premiership.

A free agent after reportedly high wage demands closed the door at Chelsea after a series of seemingly bad decisions, I hope Joe Cole has finally made the right decision. People may criticise his move to Liverpool, but it makes sense in many ways.

At Tottenham it’s unlikely he’d play in the middle of their favoured 4-4-2, and he doesn’t hold the shape well enough to be the wide-man in that formation, as we’ve seen often enough with Chelsea. Plus, is he better than what they’ve got already?

With the quality Arsenal have out wide, their deep lying strikers and attacking mid-fielders too, it’s doubtful he would get many games there either, and Wenger isn’t the biggest fan of English players anyway.

No, I don’t think Joe Cole went to Liverpool because they’re Liverpool. Let’s be honest, they’re not the most attractive proposition at the moment. I think Joe Cole went to Liverpool, because of Roy Hodgson.

The reason? Well you only have to look at another previously forlorn former Chelsea winger who’s career Hodgson revitalised recently; Damien Duff.

Hodgson plucked the injured and demoralised Duff from Newcastle and turned him into one of Fulham’s most impressive players, helping the club consistently punch above their weight during his tenure. Roy Hodgson could just be the one person who can save Joe Cole’s career, and help him finally fulfil some of his undoubted promise.

If he can work his magic and consistently get the best out of his new signing, then he will have succeeded where so many other top class managers have failed.

Hodgson could just be the key to unlocking the enigma that is Joe Cole.

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