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Player Grade: What happened to Aaron Cresswell?

We evaluate the left-backs 2016-2017 campaign with West Ham United

Liverpool v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Summary

Before the 2016/17 campaign began, Premier League fans alike thought that Aaron Cresswell possessed the talent to be one of England's brightest left-backs this season. Arriving at West Ham from Ipswich in 2014 as a young and a relatively unknown commodity, his rise to the top certainly had Hammers fans purring at his fine efforts both in attack and defence.

West Ham United v Newcastle United - Premier League
Cresswell vs Newcastle in 2014.
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Aaron and West Ham United, his campaign got off to an incredibly rough start as it never really re-gained any momentum. Struck with a horrible injury in a pre-season friendly match in Austria against Karlsruher SC, it saw the first choice left-back sidelined for four months with a knee-ligament injury.

Since his comeback to the first team, Cresswell found it incredibly difficult to re-capture his usual consistent form, although for the occasional glimpse of magic, for the first time since his arrival at the club it saw him ousted as first choice left-back for a young attacking full-back in Arthur Masuaku.

After receiving his first England call-up during the season, continuous speculation linked the 27-year-old with a move away from East London, back to his boyhood club Liverpool.

Expectations

For the past two seasons since Cresswell joined the club, we've clamoured the FA, England Manager and board of selectors to pick Aaron not only for the regular England Squad but for The European Championships last summer in France.

His consistent performances saw him elevate his status to one of England's best defenders, as we managed to fend off any interest in our prized asset during the transfer window.

As we moved into our new home, Cresswell found himself (among selected others) to be the blueprint for a West Ham team of the future and to assert himself as part of a dominant and resurgent West Ham back-line.

Performance

Being a West Ham United fan as you know will never be easy, so imagine everyone's disgust and horror when Karlsruher SC midfielder Grischa Promel completely destroyed Aaron Cresswell's knee in the last pre-season friendly, 5 days before the new season began against NK Domzale in The Europa League.

Swansea City v West Ham United - Premier League
Aaron Cresswell endured a sour 2016/17 campaign with The Hammers.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

He returned to the fray in mid-October, helping West Ham to a crucial 1-0 win against Crystal Palace. Although providing the assist for Manuel Lanzini's winner, he subsequently received two yellow cards within a matter of seconds (dubious however) as he found himself taking an early bath.

After his second return of the season, nothing ever felt the same with Aaron. Whether we put it down to the shambolic overall season from the club, or that he touched the Liverpool badge at Anfield, (leading to constant speculation over his commitment to West Ham and his future at the club) for the first time ever, people called for Masuaku to start ahead of him.

It actually turned out to be quite a bold but brilliant move by manager Slaven Bilic, in a time of turmoil, Masuaku surpassed all expectations set and helped us to four straight clean sheets before he was sidelined for the rest of the season with injury.

During his time in East London were accustomed to seeing a wonder goal once a year, whether it be his sweet volley against Leicester in 2016 or his sublime free-kick against Stoke in 2015. Unfortunately for the first time in a West Ham shirt however, Aaron didn't manage to score all season.

Masuaku has really applied pressure to Cresswell's shoe-in starting spot.

High points and Low points

High points: Assist to Lanzini in 1-0 W @ Crystal Palace, star-man in 2-2 D vs Liverpool, 3-1 W vs Middlesbrough

Cresswell's best moment of the season came with a delightful whipped cross to set up Manuel Lanzini in a crucial game against Crystal Palace in mid-October, with a star-man performance against Liverpool and a decent defensive display against Middlesbrough.

For the first time ever it really has been difficult to pinpoint his best performances in a West Ham shirt.

Low points: 0-2 L vs Manchester Utd, 0-4 L vs Liverpool, 1-0 W vs Crystal Palace

Although being the creator for Lanzini against Crystal Palace, he showed his petulance and naivety after being shown two yellow cards within a minute. Against Liverpool and Manchester United he found himself abused by a number of different players and making numerous costly mistakes, averaging a lowly 5.77 and 5.96 match rating on WhoScored.

Next Season

A lot of fans are willing to give Cresswell the benefit of the doubt after this season due to the nature of his match winning performances we know he's capable of. A lot of clubs including Liverpool could still be looking for his signature, but with their apparent left-back issue solved in Gael Clichy, it could pave the way for Aaron to stay at the club for another year.

Pre-season will give us a good indication as to which left-back Slaven chooses as his number one next season, but to have such a healthy competition for his starting spot with Masuaku, it might push him back to the same level of excellence that we expect from him week in week out.

Final Grade - D