The signing of England left back Ashley Cole was confirmed about one hour after the close of the transfer window, with William Gallas and £5m heading in the direction of the Emirates Stadium. The athletic attacking fullback was subject to an incredibly long transfer saga, with speculation lasting the entire summer, but as the clocked ticked closer to midnight it seemed that the deal might not go through. The window closed, but it wasn’t until just after 1am that Arsenal and Chelsea released a joint statement, announcing the Cole and Gallas switch.
Cole is 25 years old, and is a product of the Arsenal youth system. He made his Premier League début during the final game of the 1990/2000 season, having spent the three previous months on loan at Crystal Palace, where he scored once in 14 appearances. By the end of the 2000/2001 season, Cole had displaced Brazilian Sylvinho, now at Barcelona, as Arsenal’s first choice left back. His attacking raids down the left hand side fitted in well with the free flowing style of football that Arsenal were playing, whilst in defence, his only main weakness is aerially.
Ashley Cole played the full game at Cardiff in the 2002 FA Cup Final, where goals from Freddie Ljungberg and Ray Parlour- who hasn’t scored since- gave Arsenal a 2-0 victory. He was first choice for England at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, as well as Euro 2004. He scored in the shootout against Portugal, and was one of four England players named in the FIFA All Star Team of the Tournament. During his time at Arsenal, he won two Premiership titles, in 2002 and 2004, as well as three FA Cup’s, in 2002, 2003 and 2005. His final game for the Gunners was the UEFA Champions League Final of 2006, where Arsenal went down 2-1 to Barcelona. By now, speculation had already begun that a big money move to Chelsea was on the cards.
During 2005, Cole was found guilty of making inappropriate contact, without Arsenal’s knowledge, with Chelsea Manager José Mourinho, Chelsea Chairman Peter Kenyon, and Cole’s agent Jonathan Barnett, with a view to a move to the Premiership Champions. “Tapping up” was the phrase on the lips of the media as Chelsea, Mourinho and Cole all fined for the incident.
Cole made it clear that he would like to play for Chelsea, but proceeded to sign a contract extension with Arsenal, designed to tie him to the club for the long term. Real Madrid had reportedly shown interest, looking to replace veteran left back, Roberto Carlos.
Ashley traveled to the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany with his future up in the air, after he accused Arsenal Vice-Chairman David Dein and the Arsenal board of “feeding him to the sharks,” and making him the “scapegoat” during the whole ‘tapping up’ incident. These claims were made in his controversial autobiography. After the World Cup, in which he was one of England’s few decent performers, Chelsea entered negotiations with Arsenal. Chelsea released a statement at half time of the pre-season friendly against Celtic, saying that they would not increase their bid for Cole, and that Chelsea’s valuation did not match Arsenal’s. Chelsea had settled on a price of £20m, Arsenal wanted closer to £25m. It seemed that the deal had gone cold, a stalemate reached. Arsenal then put in a bid for William Gallas, with speculation rife that Wenger wanted the French defender in part exchange for Cole.
On the 31st August, Chelsea and Arsenal agreed terms for the transfers of Ashley Cole and William Gallas. Rumours have been heard that Mourinho did not sanction the sale of Gallas, to our arch rivals Arsenal, however Kenyon went ahead and completed the transfer. At the time of signing, Cole had won 52 England caps.
Wayne Bridge will be more than ample competition for Cole, especially with the former’s impressive start to the season. With the addition of an attacking left back, and the loss of a rock solid centre back or fullback, fans will wait in anticipation to see how this affects the balance at the back. The signing fits well with Mourinho’s policy of “more attack,” but how far is too far?