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The Libero - Joe Cole faces long wait for redemption

Published: 18 Aug 2010 - 07:49:19

As far as debuts go, there have been better.

Joe Cole never made a habit of playing for a whole 90 minutes when he was a Chelsea player, but that situation was largely beyond his control.

It was never Cole's choice to be a bit-part player at Stamford Bridge, and one that always sat uncomfortably with him. At Liverpool however, he would be guaranteed what any self-respecting footballer requires as a bare minimum: a decent run in the first XI to prove himself.

Yet after just half a Premier League game in a Liverpool shirt, he is once again facing a spell on the sidelines. And this time it has nothing to do with a managerial lack of faith or an unfortunate injury.

This time there can only be one person to blame for the brevity of his latest cameo appearance - Joe Cole.

With blood pumping and adrenalin coursing through his veins, Cole's desperation to make a good impression on his first league outing at Anfield resulted in an early bath with a mere 45 minutes under his belt.

Cole completed just 32 Premier League games in his seven-year Chelsea career, although Sunday was the first time he has been sent off.

'He's not that type of player' was the general view from both sides - surprising, considering the poor unfortunate on the receiving end of the tackle was one of Arsene Wenger's 'oft-targeted' troops.

Whatever Wenger or Roy Hodgson thought of it, the truth is that Cole's challenge was poor. Very poor. And it could easily have left fellow summer recruit Laurent Koscielny with a broken limb. As it was, despite being stretchered off, the Frenchman returned with nothing more than a bruised shin.

In fact, it was Cole that came out of the incident worse off. Aside from a bruising of his own - of his ego - Cole will now have to wait for a further three games before he can even contemplate playing a full 90 minutes for his new club.

That means Liverpool will be deprived of his full services for their opening four league games. The impact of his absence is yet to be seen, but four games can potentially bring 12 points. Liverpool have already dropped two - although admittedly, they did admirably without him at Anfield - but considering his status as a potential match-winner, a player who can turn one point into three with a clever pass or a fancy trick, he may well be sorely missed over the next weeks.

Not least at Eastlands next weekend, when Roy Hodgson would love to be able to call on his new £90,000 a week man. Instead he will be twiddling his thumbs on the sidelines and while publicly the new Reds boss has backed the "devastated" midfielder, privately he cannot be pleased that such an experienced campaigner allowed the occasion to get the better of him.

Nor, as it happens, can Hodgson have been pleased with Cole's performance prior to his dismissal.

Despite playing in his preferred central position, in behind lone front man David Ngog, the England international was largely anonymous, far from mobile enough to worry the Arsenal defence and lacking the kind of incisiveness Liverpool crave.

Of course, his Anfield career is still very much in its infancy and the merits of his signing should not and cannot be judged after just one game (or, more to the point, half a game).

The debate over who got the better deal - Liverpool with Cole or Chelsea with Yossi Benayoun - may still be far from settled, but Cole's indiscretion has given the Chelsea camp an early advantage by default.

And with the next three games set to be spent on the sidelines, Cole has a long wait before he can do anything to redress the balance.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.

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