Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti seemingly aimed a parting shot at new Liverpool signing Joe Cole by implying that Cole isn’t as tactically aware as his replacement at Stamford Bridge, Yossi Benayoun. Ancelotti has been quoted on Skysports saying:
“Joe Cole is quicker than Benayoun but Yossi is better tactically. He understands what I tell him.
“Yossi is a very intelligent player. He knows everything about the game.
“Cole and Benayoun are different players and everyone has their own opinion, but we are happy to have Yossi here at Chelsea.”
The media have been quick to jump on Ancelotti’s back following his apparent back-handed comments about a former Chelsea favourite. However, like many things in life, there is more in these words than meets the eye.
Ancelotti’s quotes could in one way be construed as a thinly veiled attack on Cole, insinuating that the England international was unable to follow tactical orders and therefore difficult to manage. Worse still for Cole, Ancelotti could also be saying that he is unintelligent due to his inability to adhere to the manager’s wishes.
At times, Cole’s lack of tactical awareness was indeed evident. Cole has always been a mercurial talent and it is this unpredictability that is a huge facet of his game. With his technical ability, Cole always had the potential to produce something out of the ordinary. This was most clearly evident in Cole’s audacious backheel winner against Manchester United that effectively ended the Red Devil’s title challenge.
Being played out of position on the wing, Cole’s natural instincts as an attacking midfielder caused him to frequently drift infield. As a result of this tendency, Cole often found himself operating against the manager’s wishes as the wingers in the team are supposed to create width rather than diminish it.
Similarly, Ancelotti isn’t the only Chelsea boss to have noticed a lack of tactical discipline in Cole’s game. Jose Mourinho routinely chastisted Cole for his reluctance to track back and defend, causing the then Chelsea manager to haul off Cole on a number of occasions. The Portuguese manager has said of Cole:
“There are two faces to Joe Cole. One is beautiful, and the other I don’t like.”
“He scored a very important goal for us today, attacked really well, but from the moment he scored the game finished for him. I needed 11 players for defensive organisation and I only had 10. There is still a lot he needs to learn. That was not good enough for me, and I was very critical from the dugout.”
However, on closer inspection, Ancelotti’s quotes do not tell the whole picture. Here is the quote in full as taken from the official Chelsea website:
“He[Benayoun] is an intelligent player, tactically he knows everything very well,’
“I tried to put him as a right midfielder in this pre-season and he can also play in his usual position as a winger.”
“He has to train, to improve his condition, but I think for us he is a good player to play because tactically he is very intelligent.”
“Everyone can explain his opinion, we are happy to have Yossi here. I think Joe Cole in Chelsea did a fantastic career but this year is another story.”
“Joe was quicker, with respect to Yossi, but tactically I think Yossi is better.”
When presented with the whole context of the interview, it is clear that Ancelotti’s comments are not meant to be a slight on Cole. His words are simply used to indicate his confidence in Benayoun and to show that the club has since moved on from the release of Joe Cole.