After an offseason knee injury suffered against Karlsruher in July, Aaron Cresswell made his return to the first team Saturday for West Ham United in the 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
His 19th minute assist to Manuel Lanzini on a low, driven cross reminded the Hammers of exactly what the 26-year-old brings to the team, and how much it was missed in the first seven matches of the season.
However, Cresswell’s two ticky-tack yellow cards 51 seconds apart from each other leave him suspended for next week’s match against Sunderland, a bitter loss after such an emphatic start to his return.
Cresswell was initially carded for a dive, but it appeared as if Cresswell was hit by Yohan Cabaye’s challenge in the Palace box. Less than a minute later, the left back put an arm out while running in stride with Wilfried Zaha, and the Palace winger made the most of the light contact.
Horrible refereeing! Never a dive, it was a penalty. And not a 2nd yellow. Cresswell badly treated.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) October 15, 2016
What we saw of Cresswell on his assist is what makes him so dangerous, and it’s also what makes it so frustrating to lose him for a week immediately after his return. The ability to overlap Dimitri Payet on the left wing and supply service into the box opens up multiple attacking options.
We all know Payet can beat five players to score (e.g., his goal against Watford), but he shouldn’t necessarily have to do that for West Ham to score (Unless he wants to, that’s cool too). Saturday, Payet drew three defenders around him before timing a lay-off to Cresswell that gave the left back suitable room to cross. Cresswell showed no rust on his ball across the goal mouth, and Lanzini made no mistake with the finish.
That left wing duo of Payet and Cresswell forces a defense to choose which attack to focus on. Now, with Cresswell out once again, the Hammers must find a way to replicate Saturday’s result against Sunderland.
Sunderland have been in awful form, still without a win on their Premier League trot. But the match can’t be taken lightly, and it could be an excellent opportunity to create a positive memory and result at the London Stadium.
Slaven Bilic’s three center back, two wing back formation worked well against Crystal Palace, and it still could be utilized next week if Alvaro Arbeloa is available to play Cresswell’s left wing back role. Otherwise, Bilic could choose to move Angelo Ogbonna to left back as part of a back four. Both options will limit the attacking potential up the wing from behind Payet.
According to Premier League rules, two yellow cards in a match - resulting in a red card dismissal - is not eligible for an appeal. The Hammers will have to make due without Cresswell next weekend. It’s not like Bilic and company has not been in that situation before this year, but it is an annoyance due to the questionable sending off.