Thursday, December 4 th, 2014
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Is Ashley cole disappointing at Roma or is it just an impression?
The Englishman has been playing more like an Italian old-style "terzino" than a complete full-back. Data say that he's less involved in the game than Maicon
by Federico Formica
Three games have been played in Serie A so far, enough to judge the impact that Ashley Cole had on Italian football. The signing of the English left back was followed by many raised eyebrows as the former Chelsea ace seemed he gave everything he could give already, in terms of pace and motivations. But all that was pre-season fodder. Now that we have some data to analyse, let's see how Cole's spell in Giallorosso is going.


Cole played each one of the three Serie A games (vs Fiorentina, Empoli and Cagliari) and was always deployed as a left-back by Rudi Garcia. Before going into the details, let's make a recap for the most lazy readers: Cole has been playing in a more defensive and deeper position if compared to his team-mate on the opposite flank (which is usually Maicon) and he's less involved into the game, although it's still too early to know why. Is he still too “shy” within the perfect machine built by Rudi Garcia? Do his team-mates prefer a more known and comforting solution, that is Maicon? Or are his tactic tasks simply different than the Brazilian ones?

Let's see the three games he played in detail.

Roma-Fiorentina 2-0. Full-backs: Cole (left) and Torosidis (right).
Roma didn't exploit the bands as they were used to in this game. Tactically speaking Torosidis is a jack of all trades and a very reliable player, but he's not an offensive full-back and the graph proves it, as he basically did short and backward passes. He failed four out of the five times he tried to pass the ball in the opposite penalty box (shown by red arrows). 

Considering the skills of Torosidis, one would have expected an offensive approach by Ashley Cole. But it did not happen as Cole often passed the ball to the midfielders (10 times to Nainggolan) and he barely got close to Fiorentina's penalty box. The Englishman only tried one cross in the danger zone and the ball didn't reach the target. But, most importantly, he was less involved in the game as the lesser amount of blue and red arrows prove. Even defensively speaking, Cole's performance was poorer than Torosidis as the Greek did 5 successful clearances (the green circles in the graph), 3 of those just at the center of the penalty box while the Englishman no one. 


Empoli-Roma 0-1. Full-backs: Cole (left) and Maicon (right)

That was the worst game that Roma played so far, as the Giallorossi struggled against the extreme pressing game by the Tuscans. The game was solved only by a long-distance shot by Nainggolan. But the regular pair of full-backs finally debuted, as Cole and Maicon are the main resources on whom Garcia relies.

Once again, the graph speaks for itself: Cole was manifestly less involved in the game, his passes were shorter and backward and he hardly tried any offensive raid. But he was more effective defensively this time with two successful clearances and one tackle in a crucial part of the pitch (in front of De Sanctis' goal). The more he ran high up the pitch, the more he tended to miss tackles and take-ons.

Maicon played an impressive amount of balls and even tried to cross six times towards Empoli's penalty area. He shot twice from the short distance and turned the play out with three flank to flank crosses. In short, Maicon played as an authentic full-back while Cole was more defensive minded, as a typical italian “terzino”. But it must be said that Maicon played on the same flank as Alessandro Florenzi, who was hugely more active and energetic than Adem Ljajic, Cole's pair on the left band.


Roma-Cagliari. Full-backs: Cole (left) and Maicon (right)
That was more a training than a real competitive game for the Giallorossi as Cagliari capitulated without fighting and Roma banked three points in the first twelve minutes. On paper Roma-Cagliari was a perfect game for Cole to take a few more risks and venture in the final third, but it didn't happen. The center of gravity of his play was a bit higher, as he barely entered in Roma's penalty box. Cole played near to the halfway line (on the left flank obviously) and his game was clean and honest (he almost did no mistakes) although the 90 minutes ended without any high note from the ex-Chelsea player, who tried only two crosses in Cagliari's penalty area, but he failed.


Once again, the offensive push came from Maicon. The Brazilian performed as a box-to-box full-back as he kicked the ball eight times in the opposite penalty area, and four times the pass was successful. He was more present in the defensive phase, although he failed two tackles and an aerial duel, but he won a decisive tackle on the 18-yard line.

Wednesday, September 24 th, 2014
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