A breakdown of Joe Cole's debut return to West Ham United

Joe Cole made his return to the West Ham United team for the FA Cup draw against Manchester United at the weekend. How did he get on?

I don’t think I’m the only one who was a little sceptical over how Joe Cole was going to perform in his first match back for West Ham United in the FA Cup against Premier League leaders Manchester United.

Well the good news for all Hammers fan is that he was superb. He looked a completely different player to the one who made a handful of appearances for Liverpool and a large chunk of that has to go to Sam Allardyce.

Cole hurried about the pitch playing as though he was the teenager who first turned out for West Ham all of those years ago. Technically he looked good and he played a starring role in both West Ham goals.

On both occasions he produced pinpoint precision to put the ball onto the head of defender James Collins who did the rest. That sort of delivery is something West Ham are engineered for under the style of Sam Allardyce.

It didn’t stop there though because another striking feature of the way Cole played was his versatility around the pitch. He didn’t simply stick to the left wing, he cut inside regularly and provided sport in the central areas when needed.

What this tells us is that Cole is still a very clever player and able to read the game because of his accumulative experience. He helped to make West Ham much more difficult to break down.

His passing and control are still good enough to allow him to come into the more competitive areas of the field and have an impact. This helps with both retaining possession and winning it back.

He did this effectively because looking at the Manchester United goals; one was a brilliant Tom Cleverley finish on the counter attack and the equaliser was a superb piece of control and a great finish from Robin Van Persie from a long ball played over the top.

For the time he was on the pitch he also looked as though his fitness is improving. This is going to take time because Cole hasn’t been playing regularly this season.

It was encouraging to see the old Joe Cole, the player who first grabbed the attention of Chelsea at the start of the Roman Abramovich. Expect to see a lot more of him over the rest of the season and if he produces more of the same, West Ham have a great outside chance of getting into Europe.

image: © mattythewhite

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