Could Ashley Cole Ever Return to Arsenal from Chelsea?

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03:  Ashley Cole of Chelsea shoots past Lukasz Fabianski of Arsenal but sees his 'goal' disallowed for offside during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on October 3, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Ashley Cole’s time at Chelsea appears to be drawing to a close. His place in Jose Mourinho’s first-choice XI has been usurped be Cesar Azpilicueta, who isn’t even a nominal left-back. Cole has been relegated to the role of glamorous reserve.

His contract at Chelsea expires this summer, and he is almost certain to move on. There’s no doubt he’ll have many suitors: despite falling out of favour with Mourinho, he remains a formidable full-back. However, Neil Ashton of The Daily Mail has a particularly controversial view on the subject of Cole’s future.

Ashton has suggested that fans considering Cole’s destination should not discount a potential return to Arsenal. He writes:

It wasn’t that long ago, after Arsenal’s 0-0 draw with Chelsea on December 23, that Arsene Wenger admitted he would take him back.

Asked whether he would be prepared to re-sign a man who forced through a move to Chelsea in 2006, Wenger replied: ‘If I needed a left back, yes.’

Don’t rule anything out in this game.

Au contraire, Neil. This is something we can absolutely rule out.

Wenger was merely being polite about a player who served him well for a number of years. He knows the damage done in the relationship between supporters and player is irreparable.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20:  Ashley Cole of Chelsea looks through the snow during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on January 20, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Only Robin van Persie can rival the enmity Cole generates from the Arsenal fans. It’s all down to the way in which he left the club. First, he was caught meeting with Mourinho while still under contract as an Arsenal player. That led to an enquiry that dogged Cole’s final season with the Gunners. 

Then, prior to leaving the club, Cole released his autobiography. In that, he viciously attacked the club for what he plainly felt was an insulting contract offer. He described his reaction thus (h/t Metro):

When I heard Jonathan Barnett (player’s agent) repeat the figure of £55K, I nearly swerved off the road.

I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. 

It wasn’t just Cole’s greed that angered the Arsenal faithful. It was the fact that he was prepared to go public with sensitive information at a time when he was still under contract with the club. His actions were damaging and disrespectful.

Moving to Chelsea, a fierce rival of Arsenal, simply twisted the blade Cole had already thrust into his relationship with the fans. It was a fatal blow.

Wenger’s response was quite canny. It included the conditional “if I needed a left-back.” He knows, as the fans do, that he doesn’t. In Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal, he has two excellent left-backs at the peak of their powers. Signing a fading Cole would make no sense. 

Ashley Cole came through the youth system at Arsenal. He was cherished by the fans, and earmarked as a future Gunners captain. He destroyed that possibility when he moved to Chelsea. Simply put, there is no way back.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.