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What Went Wrong for Joe Cole at Liverpool?

Karl MatchettFeatured Columnist IVOctober 30, 2016

What Went Wrong for Joe Cole at Liverpool?

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    When Liverpool picked up Joe Cole on a Bosman free transfer signing from Chelsea in the summer of 2010, it was meant to herald the start of a new era at the club.

    Rafael Benitez had departed after a disappointing league campaign the previous year and the club was soon to be taken over, but the board had Cole in mind perhaps as a going-away present.

    Needless to say, two and a half years later, it hasn't quite all panned out as hoped for any party.

    Joe Cole has made just 39 appearances for the Reds and scored four goals since his move and, presuming there is a willing taker out there somewhere, could well be on his way out of Anfield permanently in the January transfer window.

    An old favourite manager is just back into a job down in London and in need of players...

Brought in by a Managing Director on His Way out for a Manager Who Wouldn't Last

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    It was neither outgoing manager Rafael Benitez nor incoming boss Roy Hodgson who pursued Joe Cole; this deal was brought together by Liverpool's former Managing Director Christian Purslow.

    When Cole didn't start performing too well, Hodgson was happy to quickly pass on the credit, though he hardly covered himself in glory with the players he did sign himself.

    "He's not so much a player I can really take responsibility for. I'd have to share the responsibility for Joe, less so than for people like [Christian] Poulsen, [Raul] Meireles and [Paul] Konchesky, who are players I was quite happy to bring to the club," Hodgson said.

    Of course, Hodgson did not last more than a few months at Liverpool, and Cole was soon on to his second manager before he had even established himself as a first-team regular.

Injuries, Missed Penalties and Red Cards: Not the Best Start Ever

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    Once he had signed, Joe Cole was given an early run in his favoured role in a central attacking midfield position.

    He should have been in line to show his best form following a preseason and an early competitive start with Europa League qualifiers against poor opposition such as Rabotnicki and Trabzonspor before kicking off the Premier League campaign.

    Needless to say, things didn't happen the way Cole would have envisioned.

    After less than a single half of league football in red, Cole was sent off for a late challenge on Laurent Koscielny, and in the very next game, a Europa League fixture, he missed a penalty.

    After a three-match suspension Cole was back in the team, but he had lost his way. The team was performing dreadfully and the former Chelsea man was soon in the treatment room after picking up an injury.

    Already it was the beginning of the end for Cole, who enjoyed his last regular run in the team at this point.

Elusive Form and Fitness

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    Roy Hodgson left Liverpool shortly after the new year with Cole in and out of the team through injury, and once Kenny Dalglish came in to take over as manager, Cole failed to nail down a starting place again.

    Cole has, since arriving at Liverpool, never been one to sustain fitness consistently and he spent most of the second half of 2010-11 as a substitute, unable to have a big impact from the bench and earn himself a spot back in the team.

    Without games came a further lack of fitness and by the end of the campaign, Cole was widely heralded as a failure by fans.

Kenny Dalglish Found a Formula Without Him, and Then Spent Big

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    Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt occupied the wide roles under Kenny Dalglish the interim manager, and then in the summer Kenny Dalglish the full-time boss brought in Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson for a combined £36 million.

    With the wide midfield spots occupied by new signings and the experienced duo of Kuyt and Maxi still waiting on the bench, there was no room for Joe Cole during the 2011-12 season and he was farmed out on loan.

    Cole was more impressive playing in Ligue 1 with Lille, scoring nine times in 42 games.

    Without him, Liverpool at times played well and reached two domestic trophies, but failed to succeed or improve on their league position.

High-Tempo Pressing Not Suited to Cole's Game

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    So in comes Brendan Rodgers, a man who has worked around Joe Cole before, to implement a higher-tempo game on the ball and to apply constant pressure in the final third when the Reds don't have the ball.

    Cole is an accomplished player when it comes to controlling and passing on the ball, but he also likes to hold onto possession too long at times and no longer has the acceleration to burst past defenders and create chances.

    Pressing the opposition constantly is also not something conducive to Cole's best talents. He'll do it, and work hard for the team, but his lack of stamina is apparent at times and he can also at times be seen to overdo the pressing—following the ball out of his own zone and thereby leaving the full-back behind exposed.

    High wages, poor performances for too long and the fact that manager Brendan Rodgers wants to bring in more attacking talent in January only point to an exit from Liverpool for Cole. He is unlikely to be at the club longer than the next two transfer windows, if he even lingers until the end of the current campaign.

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