Today Jimmy Krankie, I mean Joe Cole, became Roy Hodgson’s first signing of his reign as Liverpool manager. Despite all the clamour for Joe’s inclusion in the England team this summer, he started every game on the subs bench and was discarded from Chelsea, allegedly for wanting too much money. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen. There are reports that West Ham had offered him more than Liverpool and there was at least one more offer from Spurs on the table. Spurs of course could offer him Champions League football, while neither of the other two could. From all reports he and his family would have preferred to stay in London so him signing for Liverpool is a surprise and probably the most interesting Premier League transfer of the season so far.
The reason he came to Liverpool may turn out to be purely football related. No-one knows the formation or even which players Hodgson is going to have in his first team this year yet but the quotes from Cole suggest that uppermost in his mind when choosing a new club was that he wanted a more central role and more playing time. Looking at Liverpool’s attacking midfielders already in place there are already two pretty good players in that position, Aquilani & Gerrard, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Last year at Fulham, Hodgson used Damien Duff often on the right wing, asking him to cut in, in the same way that Arjen Robben did to such great effect in this World Cup. If Hodgson envisages a similar role for Cole will he be happy with that? Also Cole doesn’t have the same speed that Robben has. From the players Liverpool have I wouldn’t be surprised to see some kind of 4-2-3-1 with Cole, Aquilani and Gerrard playing behind Torres, although modern football teams often have to be pretty fluid with regards to formation. Ex-player and Liverpool legend Ian Rush, who knows from personal experience that Italy is another country, believes that Joe Cole will play all the time, especially if he is playing well. Which is a little worrying.
Joe Cole’s career seemed to be on the downturn before this move, he spent a long time injured last year, eventually being involved in 38 games and scoring 2 goals. And of course it can be argued that a move from Champions Chelsea to Liverpool is a step down. His contract was not renewed making him a high profile free agent this summer. His signing certainly shows that Liverpool haven’t given up quite yet but it might not represent the coup that it appears at first sight.
As a young player at West Ham Joe Cole was one of the most talented players of his generation. He had all the tricks and skill and that irrepressible creativity that make players like him a joy to watch but to difficult to manage. His big move to Chelsea saw him first play for Claudio Raneiri and then the tactically demanding Jose Mourinho, who tried to change his natural inclination to attack. After Cole scored the winner against Liverpool in 2004, Mourinho criticised him for not defending properly saying, “He has two faces, one beautiful, and one I don’t like. He must keep one and change the other one.” It can be argued that Cole failed to develop to his full potential under the strict Mourinho and at 28 this move represents his last chance. Roy Hodgson has to choose whether to give him the freedom he craves or to impose a tactical discipline on him that is necessary at the top level in club football.
On the positive side he is English and will boost Liverpool’s home-grown player quota and came on a free transfer. He clearly still has a lot to prove and will find Hodgson willing to give him the opportunity to do that. His arrival may also help to persuade Gerrard and Torres that it is worth giving Liverpool at least another season.
As I said elsewhere Liverpool’s first team is still pretty good as it stands. With the addition of Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic it is looking a little better. These two will hopefully bring some creativity, work rate and goals much lacking last season at Liverpool. With attacking players like Torres, Gerrard, Aquilani, Kuyt, Maxi, Babel, Cole, Jovanovic there are reasons for optimism. Hopefully we will also be celebrating Albert Reira leaving and another attacking player arriving before the transfer window closes. Liverpool still have a lot of work to do defensively though. It appears Mascherano is ignoring Roy Hodgson and will be unlikely to play at Liverpool next year, so a new defensive midfielder needs to be found. Right now we have Lucas Leiva and Jay Spearing who can play that role, as can Steven Gerrard if needs be. A quality midfielder to play alongside Lucas is essential.
Also for some bizarre reason one of the most promising young players is on the verge of joining Fiorentina. Emiliano Insua was never supposed to play so many games last season but was another victim of injuries to other players and poor scouting and management. The senior left-back should have been either the woeful Andrea Dossena and the permanently injured Fabio Aurelio. In their absence Insua did a good job and showed great potential. The decision to sell him is baffling. The fact is now that all 3 of these players have gone and there is no recognised quality left-back. I would expect at least 3 more signings to arrive, ideally before the first Europa League qualifying game on July 29th.