On his return from injury after a nearly three month lay-off with a nasty knee injury picked up in pre-season, Aaron Cresswell returned to the West Ham starting eleven on Saturday evening at Crystal Palace much to the delight of Hammers fans who have sorely missed his presence as they have watched their side concede more goals than at any other point since Slaven Bilic’s regime in charge of the Irons began.
For much of the game, Cresswell was the hero. Playing in a new system as an attacking left wing back, with Michail Antonio on the opposite flank, Cresswell got forward well with strength and pace. Palace struggled to contain Cresswell in his new and unexpected role, and his deliveries were deadly, none more so than the one which was perfectly placed to allow Manuel Lanzini to open the scoring with what would be the winner not long before half time.
Up against Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend, Creswell also worked hard to track back and fulfill his defensive duties. Spectators could easily be forgiven for believing that he had played every game this season with his fitness levels at a remarkable level as he covered every blade of grass on the left flank and was effective in preventing the Palace widemen from putting the ball into the box.
However, in the space of around 30 seconds, all of that changed as he picked up two yellow cards to be sent off, which will now see him miss Sunderland’s visit to the London Stadium next weekend. The first, for simulation, was perhaps harsh, as there did appear to be contact, though the former Ipswich man did make the most of it to appeal for a penalty. Then, with the ball back down the other end, Cresswell tussled with Zaha and sent his man to the floor on the touchline, with the linesman making the decision that his foul warranted a second yellow card to end the afternoon early for Cresswell.
Both decisions were perhaps harsh, and Cresswell was voted man of the match by fans at the final whistle, but there will be few negatives for the full back or his manager regarding his display. Whilst frustrating, he will now have two weeks to recover as he still rebuilds his fitness after a prolonged spell on the sidelines, and if he can bring this form back into the West Ham side, he could inspire the Hammers to recover from a poor start to the campaign in his absence.
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