The severity of the ex-Chelsea man’s plight is best reflected by the fact that the injured Andy Carroll was brought off in the latter stages against Arsenal and Jonjo Shelvey came on to replace him, not Liverpool’s No. 10. They are similar players – Shelvey and Cole – but the ex-Charlton man is a younger model and is obviously being moulded into a player for the future. It is tactical selections like this that question the longevity of Cole’s Merseyside career. During the second half at the Emirates, television cameras picked up an interesting shot of Cole, Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic all observing – it would take a brave man to bet on any of them being with the club next term.
Whilst Kenny Dalglish is at the helm you would expect Cole to get further chances to shine but he is running out of games this season. The manager, although his hand was forced in some respects, is intent on bringing youth players through and this is another damning facet of Cole’s future. He is quickly dropping down the pecking order at Liverpool. Making things harder for him, the central midfield area – if that is where he is best suited – appears the most congested of all departments and it looks like it could only become more crowded.
With Alberto Aquilani’s future still clouded with uncertainty, the Italian could yet still make a return to the Premier League. For Cole then, who has contributed just one assist and one goal, in 712 minutes of Liverpool’s Premier League campaign, the battle he faces for first team football is maybe one he can’t win. Since Fenway Sports Group took over at Anfield they identified the massive wage bill as a worrying factor and Cole is unquestionably a high-earner – if not one of the highest. The other question concerning the playmaker is if he were to leave the club he joined less than a year ago, could they find a potential suitor who would be happy to bow to his wage demands. With the Reds continually linked to Newcastle United’s Luis Enrique, there has been talk of Cole maybe being used as a makeweight in any deal for the Spanish left-back – whilst Fulham have also been touted.
There has been plenty written about Cole with regards his stuttering Liverpool career, and it will only continue, as again, he has failed to impress at another big club. He may look at the summer as a chance to start a fresh and impress Dalglish – or whoever the next permanent manager is – with a hard-working pre-season. But as this campaign reaches its climax and Cole’s absence from the first team continues, it seems ever more likely he may have played his game for the Merseyside club.