A couple of days ago I was reading an article by Matt Law (Telegraph) in relation to Ryan Bertrand's loan move to Aston Villa being a problem for Ashley Cole's World Cup chances. The argument being that now he is facing competition from Bertrand as well as Gibbs to join Baines for a spot on the plane to Brazil.
It was a very reasoned article, pointing out that as West Brom manager, Hodgson did try to sign Bertrand and he liked his versatility, being able to play as a defensive left sided midfielder as well as the more traditional full back. It was suggested that Hodgson was unhappy with Cole's last England performance which saw him substituted just after half time against Germany.,
If Ashley Cole does make the plane to Brazil, he would be the first ever Englishmen to represent his country at four World Cup finals, quite the achievement, but that "If" is a very substantial one, and becomes a bigger question the longer the season goes on. Having made 106 caps for England, he has been a terrific servant to the country, but at 33 and battling injuries, can he be relied on come the World Cup.
First of all I would like to point out that Ashley Cole is not in a 3-way battle to join Baines on the plane to Brazil. He is in a 4-way battle, as I can't see how you can leave promising Southampton youngster Luke Shaw off the list of potential call-ups for the tournament. It may be a little too soon for him, but he has been a consistent performer in an impressive Southampton outfit this year.
First you really need to address the fact that at the moment, Ashley Cole is not playing for Chelsea on a regular basis. Jose Mourinho has preferred to play Spanish fullback César Azpilicueta on the left hand side of his defense with cole coming in to cover when Azpilicueta has been moved to right-back to cover for a injured or suspended Ivanovic. If you're not playing club football, can and should you be playing international tournament football?
However Ashley Cole did not lose all his talent overnight and personally at this moment in time I believe he is still one of the best English defenders we have. Unfortunately for Cole he is playing at a position that England have immense talent at. If you are having trouble deciding who should go to a tournament like the one in Brazil, then you need to go with the younger player, as they offer more value going forward.
For example Squawka statistics have Ashley Cole rated at 140 for his defensive actions this season, compare that to the 168 of Luke Shaw, 200 of Baines and 266 from Gibbs and you'll be hard pressed to convince many that he should be going to Brazil because he is the best "defensive" left back we have in the team. When you consider they have him rated at a meagre 27 in terms of his attacking ability, you have to start accepting that his place is under threat. Just for those who are interested, Baines is rated at 167 for his attacking, Shaw at 109 and Gibbs at 53.
I'm not saying these statistics are the be all and end all of football analyse. It's just one side to the coin and I've always been a proponent of the idea that you can't judge a player by numbers on a chalkboard. However when you look at these numbers then you watch him play, they do start to make sense. When you then consider that Mourinho prefers a predominantly right sided player to play left back over Cole and it paints an even bleaker picture.
Now you throw in Bertrand who looked impressive in his debut against Liverpool, and you consider that Luke Shaw is probably the future of the national team, as well as the fact that Kieran Gibbs is playing every week, at a high level for the league leaders, and it looks as though Cole may well be booking his summer holidays to the Caribbean this Summer.