Has Wayne Bridge overtaken Ashley Cole in Chelsea's pecking order!?
When seeing the teamsheet's for yesterday's League Cup semi-final first leg between Chelsea and Everton the thing that struck me was that Chelsea had fielded the strongest available team - and that Wayne Bridge was in it instead of the former Arsenal full-back Ashley Cole.
Given the eventual deal which indicated how highly the West London side wanted Cole by being willing to part with William Gallas plus £5million for him - it is something significant that the England number one left back has been apparently overtaken at club level by his international understudy.
It has not been a happy couple of years for Ashley Cole. Before the rift opened up with Arsenal he was a fan-favourite who played expansive football for a Wenger team whose motivation was to play quick attacking football. He thrived and developed at Arsenal and by the time of Euro 2004 he gave one of the best full-back displays I can remember when keeping Cristiano Ronaldo shackled in his home country.
Then problems flared up between Ashley Cole and the Arsenal board - not helped by Cole's secret meeting with Chelsea which was exposed to Cole's and Chelsea's embarrassment. Eventually Cole ended up at Chelsea but his wife in a revealing recent interview said that Real Madrid was his preferred destination - but given his wife's professional commitments she coerced him to take the Chelsea offer. She said that until recently Cole had been 'dead in the eyes' such was the strain he felt in moving to Chelsea. And it looked to be refelcted in his game last year which dropped a level or two from what I'm used to seeing from him.
Mrs Cole did finally say that he was now loving it at Chelsea. But I'm not sure if there was such a shift in emotion - given that instead of being the outright number one choice left back he is now openly subject to a constant player rotation with Wayne Bridge under Avram Grant.
And now, in what I consider to be a significant low-point/wake-up call for Cole, it looks like Avram Grant has decided that when it comes to a big game it is Wayne Bridge who should be the number one choice left-back for the time being.
And I can undersand why Grant looks to have made the decision. Bridge looks better than Cole in driving forward from the back and is a better crosser of the ball than the former Arsenal left-back. Bridge also gives the appearance of seeming to want it more - he looks whole-hearted on the pitch and links up well with his forward players while Cole looks to be relatively suffereing by not finding the same fluency in his game and with his teammates than he had at Arsenal.
Maybe I'm reading to much into last night's selection. But the trend for Cole has been downward in the recent past and it would not surprise me if it is indeed the case that Grant currently considers Bridge his better option at left back than Cole.
What do Chelsea fans think of Cole v Bridge? Should Bridge be ahead of Cole in the pecking-order or vice versa?