Ashley Cole has been ruled out of England’s next two qualifiers with Montenegro and Poland with a rib injury. But would he have started anyway with Leighton Baines in the squad?
Both have similar playing styles and attributes. Who is the most complete left-back? What will happen when Cole comes back from injury?
Cole and Baines are fast enough to keep up with most wingers in International football, and it is expected that Baines will have to do some chasing of both Montenegro and Poland’s wingers. He will most certainly be able to keep up though. Pace is one of both players best assets.
Contrary to the England’s right-back position, both Baines and Cole know how to defend. Their positioning is usually spot on, something that they could teach Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker. They are proper defenders who don’t mind getting stuck into a challenge, and doing dirty work for the team. They know when to put a challenge in and make it hard for the opposition player to get past them. They both cover round when their centre-backs are in trouble, diving at an incoming shot to stop Joe Hart having to be worked.
Cole and Baines are both composed on the ball going forward too. They differ in that Baines loves to put in a whipped cross, which is useful when the likes of Rickie Lambert are in the box, whereas Cole is more reluctant to cross, and will look to play it inside for Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard to release a shot. Both like to overlap their winger to attack, showing great stamina to do it for 90 minutes. Baines will have to look to play fewer crosses in the next couple of games with Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney likely to start up front, who love the ball to feet.
The goal threat is where the two differ hugely. Any England fan will say that Baines poses the greater threat to the opposition goalkeeper. He can be deadly from a close range free-kick, as we have seen on numerous occasions in the Premier League. Cole looks to get involved in team build up play but will rarely have a go at goal himself, although he has scored seven league goals. That is dwarfed by Baines’ 21.
Overall the two players are very matched in their skill set. With Cole’s 105 caps he is a tried and tested left-back at International level, and when he comes back from injury, it looks as if Hodgson will pick him as England look for stability coming up to what could be deciding qualifiers, depending on the next couple of results.
It seems Cole is definitely the preferred choice, with Baines only being subbed on at half time against Moldova and starting in a friendly with Scotland recently. When it matters, against the Ukraine for instance, Cole starts.
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