It seems just a fleeting juncture since Liverpool’s Joe Cole was a shining beacon of talent at both club and international level. A Premier League Champion at Chelsea and the protracted answer to England’s perpetual left midfield quandary. Fast forward to 2012 and the London-born player is returning from a foreign hiatus that saw him attempt to re-align his wavering career; his move to Liverpool tainted with miserly playing time. An impassioned season-long loan spell across the channel with Lille has put Cole back into the frame at parent club. Italian Alberto Aquilani has faced a similar torrid time during his Anfield career thus far. Lacklustre performances unsettled the midfielder and a return to his homeland seemed ominous. Following spells at Juventus and Milan, Aquilani is now back on Merseyside. With new manager Brendan Rodgers at the helm, will the return of Cole and Aquilani become comparable to new signings or will the duo yet again fail to deliver what is required?
Rodgers’ astute tactics and positive footballing philosophy are unquestionably the two prominent reasons that the vacancy at Anfield was offered to him. At Swansea, the Northern Irishman lit up the Premier League with his offensive, possession based tactics. Hoping to bring a similar philosophy to Liverpool, certain men on the roster at Anfield may feel more secure of playing time than others. Rodgers’ tactics tend to be focused around an extremely fluid version of the 4-3-3 formation. With one striker playing a lone role and two wide set attacking midfielders to support. A reasonably rigid 3 in midfield complete the attacking half of the pitch. With a distinct lack of wide set attacking midfielders in Liverpool’s squad, especially now with Dirk Kuyt having moved to pastures new, Joe Cole may be the perfect man to fit into Rodgers’ plans. The former West Ham man plays in a similar vein to that of Nathan Dyer, Scott Sinclair and Wayne Routledge; three players that Rodgers used in the aforementioned wide set attacking midfield role for Swansea. Cole may also adapt well to the required position thanks to a similar role being appointed to him at Lille. The French club used Cole and Hazard as the two wide attacking players, assisting the lone man up front. His said experience of a similar position across the channel in addition to his natural poise as a wide attacking midfielder could see him catapult straight into a team that had practically thrown him out not a year ago.
To fit Alberto Aquilani into the new Liverpool/Rodgers system, some central midfielders may have to search for first team football elsewhere. With Steven Gerrard, Charlie Adam, Jay Spearing, Jordan Henderson, Lucas Leiva and Jonjo Shelvey already jostling for position, the return of Aquilani leaves Rodgers with 7 central midfielders and just 3 spots to fill. Should players such as Shelvey and Spearing depart, the Italian could make a real impact as the beating heart of Anfield’s new era. At Swansea the ”volante de salida” position was taken up by Leon Britton. A tactic based upon the style of football displayed by Barcelona heavyweight Xavi, the ”output wheel” as it is literally translated is required to break up opposition play and release the ball through astute passing. It would have to be assumed that Steven Gerrard would take a more offensive position in Rodgers’ formation, so this unenviable role may go to the returning Aquilani. His time in Italy indicates that he is a good passer of the ball and while he may not have the luxury of time in the English game, the Italian has the credentials to at least audition for the position.
With undoubted movement in and out of Anfield this summer, the return of Cole and Aquilani will probably pass by some fans unnoticed. However, should Rodgers take an interest in bringing the outcasted duo back into the frame, they may become more noticeable than ever before.