Leighton Baines v Ashley Cole ai??i?? The Battle To Be The First Choice For England

Leighton Baines has been in excellent form for Everton in this season as well as the past season. With Ashley Cole looking vulnerable at times not only for Chelsea but also for England, it could pave the way for Baines to become the first choice left back for Roy Hodgsonai??i??s side that will fly to Brazil in 2014.

Leighton_Baines_Norway-EnglandLeighton Baines has until now remained the first choice replacement for Ashley Cole for the Three Lions. But a couple seasons including the current one have seen his stock rise, not only at club level but also on the international level. This fact was underlined by the fact that one of the top clubs in Europe, Manchester United came calling for Baines in the summer transfer window. Everton resisted in the summer but they might have to pave way for the move finally in the January transfer window. The question that has been doing rounds in the football fraternity is, who should be Englandai??i??s first choice left back in the Brazil 2014 World Cup, Leighton Baines or Ashley Cole? Let us try and answer that question.

Defending

In terms of defending, they are pretty much the similar. This would be in terms of number of tackles and the success rate of the same. It is their primary job and both seem to carry it out well. In terms of experience of playing at the highest level, Ashley Cole might edge out Leighton Baines but then that might be the only aspect where Roy Hodgson would be tempted to choose Cole over Baines in the World Cup proper.

Possession is probably the most important aspect of defending and we can see some stats here for both Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole.

Baines vs. Cole Possession

Baines vs. Cole Possession

From the stats on possession, three things are pretty evident. One, Ashley Cole spends more of his time on defensive duty as compared to Leighton Baines, though they both win possession ai??i?? whether that be through a successful tackle or an interception; high up or deep ai??i?? every 20 minutes. Two, Leighton Baines loses possession much less often than Cole. Three, Cole makes a defensive error more regularly than Baines does. These three stats favor Baines over Cole in terms reliability and safety when it comes to defending.

Passing

Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole are deployed in and assigned different roles at their respective club. Baines is used as an attacking option more than a defensive one on the left while Cole is used in almost an opposite role. It would come down to what system Roy Hodgson chooses to employ with England and which player would best suit the situation.

Leighton Baines vs Ashley Cole Passing

Leighton Baines vs Ashley Cole Passing

Majority of the passes that Leighton Baines makes are in the opposition half and quite often some intricate 1 touch passing or even passing into a crowded opposition area. This would directly affect the pass completion rate and as we see, Ashley Cole edges him out clearly. This would be a major plus point in Coles favor when it comes to picking the team. Against more favored opponents England would want someone who can track back, move the ball in the back four and enable the team to build on another attack with some defensive solidity.

Attacking

If you have been following the Premier League for the past couple of seasons, you would undoubtedly say that Leighton Baines would be the clear winner in this aspect of the game.

His statistics in this aspect can be compared to a winger rather than a left back or even a left wing back. Leighton Baines created more than 100 chances for Everton last season which was more than any other player in the whole league. That implies that Baines creates around 3 chances per game compared to Ashley Coleai??i??s 1 chance in almost 2 games. In an attacking sense Baines would be quite some distance ahead of Cole and it might come into the equation while choosing either of the two especially against a defensively fragile opposition.

The numbers do speak in favor of Leighton Baines but Ashley Coleai??i??s consistency canai??i??t be overlooked. Popular sentiment among England supporters is that Baines should be given his chance at the biggest stage. It will not only reward the performances of the Evertonian but also send out a message to aspiring youngsters that consistent performances and form will not go unnoticed when it comes up against experience. Left backs are a like a rare breed of birds as Sir Alex Ferguson said and Leighton Baines is surely one. However, it wonai??i??t be untrue that no matter who Roy Hodgson chooses in the playing 11, there will be divided opinion.

Stats Courtesy EPL Index

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