Hall of Fame

Wenger: Cole is the Premier League's best left-back ever

25 Mar 2024
Cole and Wenger

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hails 2024 Hall of Fame inductee Ashley Cole

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Arsene Wenger has hailed 2024 Hall of Fame inductee Ashley Cole as the best left-back the Premier League has ever seen. 

Cole has been revealed as the first of three legends to enter the Hall of Fame for 2024, with fans invited to choose the next two from a shortlist of 15.

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Few people know the impact on the Premier League of Cole better than Wenger, who himself was inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Sir Alex Ferguson last year. 

Wenger managed Cole at Arsenal, where an up-and-coming teenager would grow into a three-time Premier League champion over the course of an incredible 15-year career in the competition.

"I arrived in 1996, and Ashley Cole was 16 years old," said Wenger. "Pat Rice was the coach of the youth team before I arrived, and he said, 'He has character. He's a fighter. Have an eye on him.'

"One of the strengths of Ashley is his character, his confidence in himself. He's quiet, so he doesn't come into your office and say, 'Why do I not play?' He just believes in his strengths. He has no inhibition.

"When he played his first game, you feel straightaway this guy is made to be at this level. You think straightaway, 'I will have a problem to take him out again.' That's what you want from players. He had that."

Cole won two Premier League titles with Arsenal and was a pivotal part of the 2003/04 "Invincibles" team that went through the entire season unbeaten, the only modern team in England to do so. 

But he left the club in 2006 to join London rivals Chelsea in a transfer that angered many Arsenal supporters.

Wenger says "time will heal the wounds" of his Arsenal exit and revealed that Arsenal's "Invincibles" all met recently, putting a smile on his face to see Cole "back where he belongs".

"In England he has a high level of consideration and appreciation," said Wenger of Cole. "Time will heal the wounds, and he will be recognised as one of the great defenders of Arsenal Football Club.

"He's in a good position, and I'm happy for him. Recently we had a meeting with the 2003/04 Invincibles team, and he is back with the team now. I was very happy that he's in there and back to where he belongs."

As to where Cole ranks among the greatest Premier League left-backs, Wenger said: "It's always difficult to make a hierarchy, but he's certainly the best.

"I must say I was lucky because I had great left-backs when I arrived. Nigel Winterburn was outstanding.

"It's funny because our left-backs were always small. Winterburn, Sylvinho, Ashley Cole, Gael Clichy, who took over after from Ashley Cole. They're all a similar size, but they're all big characters, and that shows you that the size at the back is not so important, especially on the flanks.

"It's mobility, technical quality, the understanding of the game that makes a difference. And the character because they're all small but tough.

"He's honestly one of the few players who I always say that moved on and continued to develop, and that shows remarkable intelligence and remarkable consistency in the effort.

"When you look at what he did at the club level and the number of games he has, over 100 caps for England, it shows remarkable consistency. That is always the mark of a big player.

"Today he’s a coach. I didn't necessarily expect that from him, but the vibes I've had from people is that he's a very good coach, and that sums him up: doesn't talk too much, but when he does something, he tries to be as good as he can be, and it shows."

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