Is Carlton Cole returning to his best form for West Ham?
Could Birmingham performance be the turning point of striker’s season?
Poor form cost Carlton Cole his place not only in the national squad but in the West Ham starting XI, but a superb performance on Saturday against Birmingham could be the game that kick-starts his season.
Leading the line against Birmingham City, the former Chelsea man gave Blues defensive pair Scott Dann and Roger Johnson a torrid time, with his power and aerial abilities giving the accomplished duo a headache all afternoon.
“That has always been my game. That was how I got into the England team, it wasn’t because of my goals, it was because of my hold up skills,” he said.
“If I can get back to that and put some goals on top of it then hopefully I will be a threat in the future.”
It has been frustrating to see Cole struggle. He was vital to West Ham at the start of last season smashing seven goals in the opening 13 games.
That all changed when a serious knee injury against Burnley kept him out for two months.
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His return yielded two goals in as many games, but a barren scoring spell of three goals in 20 games followed. The lack of success would have played hugely on the mind of a player for whom confidence plays such a large part in how he plays the game.
The sacking of his mentor Gianfranco Zola as West Ham manager, the man who instilled that much-needed belief in Cole would have also done little to improve his morale.
The striker admitted earlier in the season he was not at his best and his subsequent dropping from the first team by boss Avram Grant seems to have done the trick.
Cole responded well, netting his first goal of the season in the defeat against Newcastle two weeks ago, before playing a pivotal role in helping West Ham claim an impressive point after drawing 2-2 with Birmingham at St Andrews.
“Of course, I want to play football every week, but sometimes you have to take a step back and look at your own performances and think about whether you are performing to the standards you want to be,” he said.
“Me personally, I thought I was out of form, and I just want to get back to where I was.
“For me, all I need is games, just to get back playing. I will take a lot of confidence from today (Saturday), because I felt I put myself about and tried to make myself effective, even though I didn’t get my goal.”
“It was a good save from the goalkeeper (Ben Foster). I thought it was on and I was already celebrating in my head, but it hit the post and came back out, I wanted it so badly, but it didn’t come back to me. I can only go again in the next game and try and get that goal that I really want.”
His quest to find the target should be aided by the 4-3-3 formation the club recently adopted, with Frederic Piquionne and Victor Obinna joining Cole up front, with the duo becoming important weapons to the West Ham attacking armory.
Piquionne is the club’s joint-top scorer with four goals, while the pace and ability of Obinna means opposition defenders are likely to focus on the pair rather than solely on Cole.
“The thing is they are real mobile players that I play with. As long as we get the tactics right and the positioning right, I think the three of us can make a formidable partnership up there,” Cole said.
“I had a load of support today (Saturday). That is what we have been working on in training. If we can do that more often then that formation could be a real threat to a lot of teams.”
Saturday’s match was the first time this season West Ham had scored more than once in a league game and if the trio can match their performance at the weekend, Cole’s prediction is likely to come true and if it does, his own performances are likely to mirror that.
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