Thursday, 11 February 2010
Cole - Our Best Centre Forward Since Geoff Hurst
Carlton just gets better and better. I was a little worried watching him against Pompey, Blackburn and Burnley, fearing that he had lost his confidence after that injury lay off. He wasn't as committed, wasn't as assured, wasn't completely in the zone; but last night's performance suggests that he was just a little ring rusty in his initial come back games. Against Birmingham, he was back to his best.
Cole took his goal wonderfully, getting in front of and across his marker to glance home his header, in a way that reminded me of Peters in his pomp. The turn and shot in the first half was breathtaking. Okay, the effort went well wide, but the confidence and the skill displayed in first holding the ball and then turning the defender and shooting, in one sweet movement, was very exciting. Cole would not have dared to try this 12 months ago. This new improved version seems to have everything. He is big, he is strong, he is confident, he is scoring with his left and right feet and with his head, and he is a superb target man, holding up the ball brilliantly and showing superb awareness of team mates too. His control is now so good that he is playing with his head up and spotting the movement of others in a way that is rare for a big man up front. Heskey has been Capello's first choice until now because of his ability to bring the best out of others around him; well Cole is now better at that job and is scoring regularly into the bargain.
Three moments stood out for me in the second half, apart from the wonderful goal. The first saw Cole receive the ball facing his own goal about ten yards outside Birmingham's box, and with his marker close enough for them to feature in the opening shot of a gay love photo story. Cole controlled the ball instantly, stepped way from his marker, looked back, turned into space, looked up, spotted Diamanti free on the left and delivered a beautifully weighted pass. Skill, strength, vision, technique, awareness and calm all epitomised in five seconds!
The second was when he chased that long aimless ball into the box on the left hand side. Cole looked second or third favourite to get to the ball, but an amazing burst of speed saw him outstrip two Birmingham defenders. He then showed great strength to shield the ball and superb awareness to turn back, spot Noble and deliver a perfect pass.
The third was less dramatic but showed how much he now thinks about the game. Again he received the ball with his back to the Birmingham goal and tightly marked. Again he stepped away from the defender, turned and looked for a forward pass to the left. Finding nobody in space in a crowded midfield, he shielded, turned again and looked for a pass to the right. With no "safe ball" available there, he turned back and played a 10 yard pass backwards to Upson, allowing us to set up another phase of play. Nothing magical there at all, but it was considered, it was thoughtful, it was controlled, and it was all about ball retention. The old Cole would have turned into trouble or passed a ball that put a team mate under pressure. The new Cole thinks about the options and, most of the time, makes the right choices! If he could learn to win free kicks by "crumpling", Shearer style, under a challenge from behind for a high ball, then he would be the complete centre forward!
Stronger than Kanoute, more skilful than Hartson, more complete than Cross, Pearson or Zamora, faster and more durable than Ashton, Cole is now our best centre forward since Geoff Hurst. If he continues in this form, he is a shoe in for Capello's squad and a good bet to be first pick alongside Rooney by the time the World Cup kicks off. And to think that one idiot on the Org expressed pleasure when Cole was injured against Villa! Had Cole and Franco remained fit through December and January, relegation would not now be an issue!
Posted by Hammersfan at 16:23