A position in the West Ham squad that is often called to be improved upon is left-back. In the modern game, it is a position that requires an offensive threat as much as it needs defensive stability, and as seen at the Hammers, it is difficult to find that happy balance.
Over the last four seasons, Arthur Masuaku and Aaron Cresswell have been sharing duties for this crucial spot in the team, much to the supporters’ dismay. The former, while often exciting to watch, is regularly exposed when having to defend, which has proven costly to West Ham on a number of occasions.
Cresswell, in contrast, is perhaps sterner while carrying out his defensive duties, but lacks a certain drive and directness when attacking the touchline. But regarding the Liverpudlian, this wasn’t always the case.
Signed in 2014 from Ipswich Town for a modest fee, Cresswell joined the Hammers on the back of a stellar season with the Tractor Boys as he was named in the PFA Championship team of the year. West Ham fans didn’t know what to expect due to the jump in quality to the Premier League that the then 24-year-old would have to bridge.
More from Green Street Hammers - West Ham
To the pleasant surprise of many, Cresswell transitioned seamlessly to top-flight football and didn’t look out of place next to Premier League veterans, as he played a key role in helping Sam Allardyce’s side hit the dizzy heights of 4th in the league at Christmas, with a real shot at achieving European football by season’s end.
Sadly, with the known departure of Big Sam at the end of the campaign, the Hammers’ hot streak eventually wore off, as they plummeted down the league table, finishing 12th while winning just three of their last 21 fixtures.
Cresswell remained consistent in this dramatic turn of form, however, and deservedly earned the prestigious Hammer of the Year award for the 2014/2015 campaign.
With Payet stealing the show on the left-hand side of Bilic’s midfield, Cresswell was given licence to roam forward and support the Frenchman, and their delightful link-up play remained a threat throughout the entire season. His form drew talks of interest from other names, with his boyhood club Liverpool seemingly keeping a close eye.
A shout-out must be given to Cresswell’s perfect volley away to eventual-champions Leicester City, in what was potentially the finest of his eight goals for the club.
Admittedly, this is where his peak abruptly ended, but through no fault of his own. In the pre-season leading up to the big move to London Stadium, Cresswell was the victim of a disgusting challenge against Karlsruher SC that had no place on any football pitch, let alone a friendly.
This injury saw the left-back sidelined for four months with a knee ligament injury, meaning that he had a challenge on his hands, not just to oust Masuaku from the team, but to revive the previous form that saw him garner so many plaudits.
Want your voice heard? Join the Green Street Hammers team!Write for us!
To his credit, shortly after his comeback, he earned an international call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad and made his debut in a 2-2 draw with Spain at Wembley. Despite this, though, Cresswell hasn’t since been able to reach the heights that he once set.
Despite never being the quickest full-back, he still looks as though as he has lost a burst of pace that he once possessed. To add to this, since that pre-season injury, the scouser has often been seen, perhaps understandably so, ducking out of challenges that he wasn’t afraid of committing to during his first two seasons in east London.
Having turned 30 during the current campaign, some may argue that whatever magic he still possesses will soon dwindle as his legs begin to tire even more. David Moyes still seems to be a fan, however, and one would imagine he will remain part of his plans for the time being.
Despite supporters’ mixed opinions on him now, it is unquestionable that Cresswell was once West Ham’s most consistent performer and a key member of the team which managed to achieved the club’s highest ever Premier League points total.
With 204 games for the Irons under his belt, respect needs to be placed under Cresswell’s name, as he has, without doubt, put his maximum effort into what has been one of the toughest periods in Hammers history.