Is Ryan Bertrand Good Enough to Be the Successor to Ashley Cole?
Ryan Bertrand joined Chelsea from Gillingham in 2005. Widely tipped as the next big English left-back, Bertrand spent much of his early career as a blue out on loan at lower league outfits Norwich City, Nottingham Forest and Reading. He was recalled to his parent club in January 2011 and has since been used as cover for Ashley Cole.
Despite these positive developments, questions remain over Bertrand’s ability to take over as Chelsea’s first-choice left-back.
Cole joined the Blues in 2006 and has since established himself as one of the best left-backs in the world. He has developed a knack for always being in the right place at the right time, and his crucial clearances and interceptions have saved many vital points over the years. At 32 years old it is clear his career is beginning to wind down, although the workman-like performances he is still putting in suggest that he could continue for another season after this one.
Whether the club will offer him another one-year extension on his contract, which expires at the end of the 2013-14 season, remains to be seen, but the work he is doing in mentoring Bertrand will be key to the 24-year-old’s continuing development.
Bertrand’s positioning is often questionable, and he has a tendency to drift out of games. His passing can be erratic and his tackling is hit-and-miss. However, Cole suffered the same labels early on in his career. In 2006 this writer, along with many other Blues supporters, questioned the wisdom in swapping William Gallas and £5 million for a left-back who had a tendency to run forward, lose the ball and lacked the pace to track back.
Cole has certainly improved on his stamina and reading of the game, and having made such great improvements in the past seven years, is the ideal role-model for Bertrand the left-back. However, there is a lack of clarity as to Bertrand’s best position on the pitch.
Is Ryan Bertrand good enough to replace Ashley Cole?
Doubtlessly a left-sided player, he made his European debut in the Champions League final in Munich in a more advanced midfield role. Even the player himself has been unable to answer the question about where his best position lies, and until he decides he will remain in limbo. It is certainly possible that he could become a left-sided everyman, able to cover any and all positions. However, that would encourage him to become average at several positions rather than excelling at one.
The return of Jose Mourinho will spur Bertrand on to improve his form. The Special One took the 16-year-old Bertrand on Chelsea’s preseason tour of America in 2006, and the player has fond memories from that time. Whether he will be afforded the same first-team opportunities as he enjoyed last season largely hinges on how he performs in training and Cole’s fitness.
Bertrand capitalised on an injury to Cole in April and put in competent displays in three competitions. This season, barring injury, he will likely start in the domestic cup competitions, with Cole keeping his place for the Premier League and Champions League.
Bertrand is contracted at the club until 2017, and with interest from Liverpool and Everton having been rejected this summer according to Sky Sports and The Mirror respectively, it seems that the management team believe he could still fulfil his potential. For the moment though, there is a long way to go until he can fill Cole’s boots full-time.
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