The revelation that Ashley Cole faces up to three months on the sidelines will prove cause for concern for both Chelsea and England fans alike after the left back fractured his ankle in the match against Merseyside club Everton.
This most definitely rules him out for the rest of the domestic season barring an unlikely comeback and puts his place at the World Cup in some doubt. England manager Fabio Capello has long since stated that injured players just simply won’t be taken to the tournament and this casts a shadow over his place in the squad which now solely relies on his rehabilitation rather than his form.
It’s a massive blow to Chelsea where the left back has been in exceptional form throughout this term but Cole’s injury could give summer signing Yury Zhirkov a chance to shine. Signed from CSKA Moscow for £18m, the Russian who is also comfortable at left midfield has had little chance to display his talents after suffering numerous injury problems himself in what can only be described as a frustrating six months at the Bridge which has restricted him to only 8 league appearances. With Paulo Ferriera also able to fill in at left back when called upon they are fairly well stocked in the area but they are likely to miss Cole hugely nonetheless as they challenge on three fronts in their pursuit of a trophy haul.
England however, are much more likely to be suffering in the wake of the news with the backups available to Capello relatively untested at the highest level. Wayne Bridge looks set to be the main beneficiary if he chooses not to retire from international duty, although whether he’ll be able to play alongside sacked Captain and former teammate John Terry after the revelations of the affair involving his ex-girlfriend and mother to his child remain to be seen.
Capello was thought to be toying with the idea of only taking Ashley Cole to the World Cup as a specialist left back and using James Milner as his back-up as he looked set to take an extra attacking option rather than a back-up left back with Gareth Barry and perhaps even Joleon Lescott capable of filling in there should the occasion call for it. But he’s unlikely to take the risk now and will have to adapt the plans for his squad, taking Cole to the World Cup with little or no game time under his belt is too big a risk to take for the cautious Capello.
The friendly game against Egypt on March 3rd at Wembley provides Capello with the chance to try out a few different faces in the left back position; the spot is definitely up for grabs. Stephen Warnock will probably be involved in the squad after being part of a Villa side with the meanest defence in the Premier League this season which has seen them only concede 19 goals and Leighton Baines could even push claims for a call after another solid season at Goodison – the game however will probably come too soon for Joleon Lescott who is returning from injury and has always looked more at ease at left back as opposed to his preferred centre half position.
Cole’s injury throws up an unwelcome selection headache for Capello and will undoubtedly throw up questions over whether Bridge and Terry can play with one another again too, something the Italian would have wanted to avoid in the run up to the World Cup. Chelsea are better placed to be able to cope with the injury but with Zhirkov yet to have hit top form at Chelsea so far and difficult away trips to Liverpool, Man Utd and Inter Milan still to come, they will be hoping the Russian begins to show something like the sparkling form Cole was showing prior to this setback for both club and country.