Proven winner Ashley Cole could make a sensational return to the club who made him a star.
The acrimonious departure of Ashley Cole from Arsenal to Chelsea, during a time when the former's trophy hunt was becoming barren and when the latter were dominant in the division, created a particularly big rift between the English left back and the supporters of the club who had chanted his name from youth level in the late 1990s all the way through to his final season at N5.
Animosity toward Cole, now 33, was no doubt enhanced when it was revealed that he was left fuming over a matter of £5,000.
During contract negotiations, the Arsenal board would not budge from a £55,000 per week deal whereas Cole was holding out for £60k: 'I was trembling with anger,' he wrote in his autobiography My Defence, in a statement that injured his character in the mindset of many supporters who had become disillusioned with the modern footballer.
After all, here was a player who was infuriated with a salary that would take him half a week to out-earn annual sums afforded to nurses, teachers and police had he accepted, rather than 'nearly swerving off the road' in disgust.
As it turned out, the unsuccessful Champions League final in 2006 against Barcelona was Cole's last game as a Gunner and, since joining Chelsea, Arsenal have yielded no silver during a time he has collected a League Cup, four FA Cup winners medals, a Premier League title, a Europa League win and a Champions League prize.
The defender's current deal at Stamford Bridge expires in June, 2014. He is already free to discuss terms with a new employer and the Daily Mail believe that could well be Arsenal.
Considering the manner in which he left it may seem preposterous, but the player himself is obviously on good terms with those currently occupying the Arsenal dressing-room as, just six weeks ago, he linked up with the entire Gunners playing staff for the red-and-white fancy-dress Christmas party.
Cole would have to take a considerable pay-cut to return to the Emirates Stadium as he currently pockets 120 grand every week, but would he be a preferable option to the error-prone Nacho Monreal or the injury-prone Kieran Gibbs?
|Player||Team||Touch/ App||Pass/ App||Tackle/ App||Clear/ App||Int/ App||Cross/ App||Dribble/ App||Error||Apps||Mins|
As demonstrated in the data table above, of the four full backs currently on the roster at Chelsea and Arsenal, it is Cole who enjoys more touches on the football, creating a higher passing rate. He commits to more challenges when the opposition has possession than Monreal (and negligibly more than Gibbs), yet clears the ball fewer times than them both. He also fails to create as many attacking opportunities from wide areas (from crossing) than all players listed.
Unlike Gibbs, though, Cole has already been guilty of making an error which lead to an opponent capitalising by taking a shot.
image: © Ben Sutherland