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West Ham Season Preview #8: Is Aaron Cresswell the man at LB?

Is Aaron Cresswell’s past enough to hold a starting XI spot as he struggles to return to form?

Manchester United v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Last Season

West Ham United v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

The man who won Hammer of the Year in 2014-15, his first season with West Ham, missed the 1st 7 matches of 2016-17, with a knee ligament injury suffered in pre-season. He returned on October 15, 2017 for Matchday 8. His impact was felt, as he assisted on the winning Manuel Lanzini goal against Crystal Palace, but then missed the next match for picking up two yellow cards in under a minute.

This was the 2016-17 season for Aaron Cresswell. He never could quite get back to the form that garnered him a call up to the England squad, but showed enough flashes to think that player would show up in time.

In 26 matches, Cresswell’s Squawka Performance Score was -72, worst among West Ham defenders. That negative score means the Hammers were better off not having him on the pitch. His -22 in Defensive Score was down from 191 the year prior, signifying just how far he had fallen off.

Despite all this, Mr. Cresswell racked up the 2nd most minutes of all West Ham defenders.

Cresswell finished with 11 shots, 2 assists, and 15 total key passes - 3 more than Andre Ayew.

His season was a disappointing one, to put it lightly. He’ll want to get off to a great start in 2017-18 to get the bad taste out of everyone mouth.

Current Team Placement

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

2016-17 saw Cresswell stick in the starting XI despite his shaky performances. Slaven Bilic opted to go 3 in the back at times, shifting Cresswell further up the field, presumably hoping that his offensive skill could spur on his all around game.

By the end of the season, many fans had Arthur Masuaku penciled in as the starter at Left Back.

Bilic seems to trust the 27-year old, however, and it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see him start #3 at the beginning of the season. (This particular contributor sees it as likely, anyway)

Goals for the Season

Crystal Palace v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

In 3 seasons with West Ham, Aaron Cresswell has never seen a positive performance score in possession. -208 in 2014/15, -41 in 2015/16, and -124 last season. That number needs to improve. For a LB, it doesn’t absolutely need to be above 0, but if he can stay away from -90 or below, I have to believe the whole West Ham XI benefit. His direct competition at LB, Arthur Masuaku, scored a 1 in Possession Performance score and a 147 total score in just 13 games played.

Cresswell’s number one goal for this season has to be getting back to full health. A fairly large part of me believes he came back from his knee injury too quickly at the beginning of the season and never could quite feel sure of his knee from then on.

If his mind is right, and he can get his game back to 2015/16 level, the West Ham starting XI can really shine with the addition of Marko Anautovic to link up with Cresswell on the left side.

With Arthur Masuaku showing some flashes, Cresswell needs to show up to keep his spot and England hopes.