Ashley Cole’s arrival at Stamford Bridge in 2006 was one of the greatest coups pulled by Jose Mourinho in his first spell in charge. Swapping the sometimes erratic Arsenal left-back for the reliable William Gallas looked like madness to many, but as is often the case with the Special One, it has paid off handsomely.
Cole has developed into one of the best left-backs in the world with a reputation for arriving in the right place at the right time. At one of his rare press conference in July, he told The Guardian:
Having the manager back now from 2006, the manager who bought me is important because I still feel I owe him something. I didn't play as well as I could back then, and as well as I have for Chelsea since, when he bought me. I owe him a lot.
After a protracted negotiation period, Cole, who turns 32 in December, signed a one-year contract extension in January to keep him at the club until the end of this season. As the will-they-won’t-they renewal talks are due to start again soon, let’s take a look at Cole’s performances after seven EPL games, compared with the same time last season.
Cole has been involved in all seven Premier League fixtures so far. Although he left the 3-1 win over Norwich City with 15 minutes still to play, he has been key to Chelsea’s third-place standing. However, compared with his performances at this stage of last season, it appears that his form is starting to drop.
His passing accuracy stands at 88 percent compared to 90 percent in 2012/13, and he has been involved in fewer attacking actions, averaging 0.85 per game to last season’s one per game. He has marginally improved his defensive effort with 1.7 key actions per game compared to 1.4; however he is making fewer tackles with 1.85 per game against his 3.4 average last year.
Cole is still among the most reliable defenders in the Chelsea squad, and his reading of the game is second to none. However, his poor performance against Everton (78 percent passing accuracy, one clearance) highlighted the need for Cole to adapt to compensate for his advancing age. His forward forays will need to be carefully balanced with his defensive duties as he loses the pace that has been such a key part of his game, and his fitness will be carefully monitored.
A rib injury has ruled him out of England’s crucial remaining World Cup qualifiers, but Cole will likely return to the Chelsea squad for their Premier League clash with Cardiff City on October 19. Although he is yet to perform at the same level as he did last season, the man that Mourinho describes as “the perfect player” (via the Daily Mail) will surely hit his stride sooner rather than later.
Statistics from FourFourTwo StatsZone.