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Ashley Cole interview


Eton Blue at the Chelsea Megastore

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THE CHRISTMAS EVE INTERVIEW: ASHLEY COLE

Ashley Cole turned another year older this week and can look at his team with experienced eyes. He is not slow to tell the Official Chelsea Website where improvement must come.

One thing you can say for Ashley Cole, he doesn't shy away from admitting it when his or his team's football is not all it should be.

It was during an interview with the Official Chelsea Website a couple of years ago that our first choice left-back freely declared he had been hampered by injury for months and that Chelsea fans had seen nothing like the best of him.

Happily that fitness problem was overcome and for the past 18 months we most definitely have watched a full-functioning Cole, but now as he again sits down to take stock of on-pitch events, he cuts to chase.

Our opening suggestion was that between them, recent opponents have tried almost every formation going to contain Chelsea and our raiding full-backs. The thought is halted when Ashley interjects:

'It seems to be working!

'In the last few games we haven't had many good results and you can't blame teams if they think certain formations play well against us.

'We have just got to get on with it and try to put our influence on the game. The last three or four games have been tough and we are not playing as well as at the start of the season and as well as we know we can.

'But I don't think you can go through a whole season playing well.' he continues, beginning to look at the positives.

'Hopefully this has been our blip because we have not really been losing and we are still top of the league. It could be worse.'

The Blues have recorded one win in six games in all competitions since the comprehensive dismissal of Arsenal on the north Londoners' own patch, and the fact that three of those opposition sides have lined-up in good old-fashioned 4-4-2 with wide midfielders pushed on to our full-backs might be a point worth making, but Ashley believes difficulties have been more of our own making.

'If we play well we can beat anyone but we have not shown the fight and the determination that you should start the game with. That is what wins you games, it doesn't matter how good you are otherwise, and we have to get back to that.

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'Of course teams do try to stop the full-backs because when it is the diamond it is up to me and Brana [branislav Ivanovic], or whoever is playing, to make the width so if teams block that off, we play through the middle. But it is up to us to find the answer and I am glad to see Joe [Cole] back fit so hopefully he can start unlocking some doors for us.

Because the neutralising of flying full-backs last season was widely accepted to be a major reason why Scolari's Chelsea faltered, it is perhaps too easy to accept teams are doing similar this year.

Ashley looked anything but diminished as he was crossing for two goals against Arsenal, and the Premier League's stats have Branislav Ivanovic down for four assists, as well as his award this week of a goal at Bolton by the Dubious Goals Panel.

To add to that we even had centre-back Alex doing a Ashley Cole impression in the last home game with a storming charge down the wing (albeit on the right) and cut back for Nicolas Anelka to score.

'It was a great run and ball for Nico,' smiles the regular full-back.

'The defence has done well in attack this season. JT scored a big goal against Man U, I have got a couple (one pictured below v Spurs) and we have got some great players who can go out into different positions and make these kind of runs.

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'Riccy Carvalho and JT, when they get the ball, are not afraid to run and at a big club you need players who have the confidence to do that. We attack from the back.

'Of course we miss Bossie [Jose Bosingwa] and we wish him good luck coming back from his injury, but Brana has done brilliantly. When he first signed here we saw in training everyday what he can do and for me he has been one of our best players this season.

'He is out of position some might say but he is up and down like Bosingwa and it is good to see him fit and enjoying his football.'

One Chelsea defender, John Terry, was rightly voted into 2009's top team at Fifa's World Player of the Year award this week. While Chelseafc.com finds it hard to argue with the collective opinion of 50,000 professional footballers, their choice of Man United's Patrice Evra over Ashley as the left-back must be the biggest debating point in the team selection.

Ash now has over a decade of top-level experience to add to his never-in-doubt talent. He turned 29 on Sunday.

'I have felt a senior player for a few years now,' he says. 'It is crazy to think I have been playing regularly for 11 years in this great league. There are a few young players coming in now and you do try to help them but I think I'll leave it mostly to the real leaders in JT, Bally, Lamps, Didier, people like that. I am a little bit too quiet for that.'

He does however have words of support for 21-year-old Daniel Sturridge who will be asked to take the attack to Birmingham on Boxing Day.

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'I don't want to put pressure on him. He is still a young guy and everyone is talking about him and sometimes that is the wrong thing to do.

'Everyone knows how good he is and hopefully he will take his chance. Against West Ham he came on and showed something different, and when the guys go to the African Nations Cup, we are going to be looking on Sturridge to make a difference.

'He is still improving and he looks like he has a good head on his shoulders. He is quick, he is strong and he is powerful with a good finish. Hopefully the senior boys can help make it an easy ride into the team and he can help us come through the next few games and January with a few goals.

'The last two teams we have played, Portsmouth and West Ham, have been fighting for their lives at the bottom and showed that with determination they can make it difficult for us.

'Birmingham and Fulham are on good runs but they will be the same. They all stick together and work hard. We know how good we are individually and as a team and if we show that bit of fight, we will go a long way.'

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