Three Solutions to Aaron Cresswells Injury Woes
Posted by Matthew Jones | Published on July 24, 2016
In the final minutes of West Ham United’s third and final pre-season friendly match of their trip to Austria, Aaron Cresswell suffered a heavy two-footed challenge from Karlsruher midfielder Grischa Promel. The official West Ham United website has announced Cresswell will be sidelined for three to four months with a severe knee ligament injury. I strongly believe the malicious tackle deserved the player to be sent off, however Promel only received a yellow. Pre-season matches are predominantly for fitness purposes and there is no need for a player to commit such a physical and brutal challenge in the circumstances of a pre-season friendly. However the past cannot be changed, therefore I have given three solutions in this article which can diminish the impact Cresswell’s absence will have on West Ham United as much as possible. Let me know which suggestion you think would be most appropriate, or if you have any other ideas I would love to hear them.
Solution 1: Play Three at the Back
The absence of Cresswell leaves West Ham United with Sam Byram as their only recognised senior fullback. Slaven Bilic appears to not favour the former Leeds United defender, and even if Byram was called in to replace Cresswell, he is not experienced at left-back and much prefers his usual right-back position. This suggests West Ham should adapt to three central defenders at the back, therefore full-backs would not be a necessity. Teams such as Juventus are known to play three at the back, and in the last World Cup teams such as Chile, Holland, Mexico and Costa Rica succeeded in the tournament with three at the back as well.
The line-up above shows how West Ham could adapt to this formation. Håvard Nordtveit sits in the middle of the defence, giving him the role of controlling the back line, which he would be capable of doing – Nordtveit captained his former club Borussia Mönchengladbach excellently whilst playing centre-back. Payet would sit in the higher position of the two left-wingers, because last season he was outstanding at communicating with the player behind him (usually Cresswell) to overlap Payet, so Payet can play a clever flick-on to the overlapping player. This move was very effective last season and made space for the overlapping player to cross the ball in the box. Lanzini linked up well with Payet last season, and I believe their chemistry on the pitch would allow Lanzini to emulate Cresswell’s signature overlap of Payet on the left-wing, therefore I placed Lanzini behind Payet on the left.
Antonio has become more familiar with playing a deeper role on the right-hand side, as Bilic pushed him into a right-back position in the second half of last season. However I want to see Antonio have more attacking freedom next season, therefore I put him as a right-winger in this 3-4-3 formation, but placed him as the right-winger who sits deeper on the pitch due to his recent experience of playing deeper, with Feghouli being the right-winger higher up the pitch. I believe Carroll is currently West Ham’s best striker so he takes the centre-forward role, however West Ham would hope to buy a top-class striker this transfer window who can take up this role. I think this formation could work well for West Ham next season and has many positives to it.
Solution 2: Buy a new left-back
Money is not the issue this window for West Ham United. With the recent departure of James Tomkins to Crystal Palace for £10m, and the likely departures of Sakho and Valencia for a predicted estimate of £20m, leaves £30m extra on top of a large summer budget this window of around £55m, totalling to £85m available for the East London club to spend. This leaves plenty of money for a new left-back to be brought in, should Bilic prefer to keep a 4-2-3-1 formation. Here are three players I believe West Ham should look at to fulfil this position.
Jose Enrique – The Liverpool fullback has plenty of experience at the age of 30. Whilst being at Liverpool for five years, Jose Enrique has also played for Newcastle, further proving his track record in the Premier League. He has also played for Spanish teams such as Levante, Valencia, Celta de Vigo and most notably Villarreal where he helped them to fifth place in La Liga and securing their place in the UEFA Cup. Jose Enrique also has experience with European football in England with Liverpool. As West Ham approach their second consecutive season in the Europa League, they will need a man of experience to replace the talented Cresswell, and Jose Enrique could be the man – if Liverpool manage to replace him this window.
Robbie Brady – Recently impressing for the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016 and Norwich City in the Premier League last season, Brady deserves to play at a higher level. He is a player who can operate at left-back or on the wing, has bags of energy, can communicate with his teammates excellently on the pitch, and has a tidy shot on him. At 24 years of age, Brady has many years left and could do a job for West Ham United next season.
Aleksandar Kolarov – The Serbian international has performed consistently for Manchester City for 6 years. With two Premier League titles and an FA Cup to his name, he has a taste for English silverware that West Ham United lack in recent years. Like Brady, Kolarov can operate anywhere on the left flank, and has a powerful shot. Similar to Cresswell, Kolarov is known for his ability to overlap excellently. Despite being 30 years of age, Kolarov can still play at the top level and West Ham would need a player like him to replace Cresswell. I believe Manchester City are targeting a new left-back this window which would open Kolarov to a move away from the club.
I believe these men could be lured away from their clubs for a price in the region of £4-8 million. Could one of these Premier League fullbacks be the solution?
Solution 3: Play Ogbonna at left-back
This solution, like the previous one, would not require a change of formation. This solution would also allow the summer budget to remain unaffected by the investment of a new left-back. In my opinion there is only one player currently contracted to West Ham United that could be capable of fulfilling the left-back role for the Hammers during Cresswell’s absence.
One of their best players last season, Ogbonna was the rock at the back for West Ham during the majority of their campaign, which resulted in a call up for his national team and a guaranteed place in the starting XI for West Ham in their first season at the Olympic Stadium. Ogbonnas solid season was recognised by Manchester United and Manchester City according to various reports, as they claim the two clubs are monitoring the player. At his former club Juventus, Ogbonna operated at left-back when needed, and proved capable in this position for the Champions League club. If he could adapt his left-back experience in Serie A to the pace of the Premier League, he would be a perfect replacement for Cresswell. Reid and Nordtveit/Collins/Burke could make up the centre-back partnership while Ogbonna plays left-back.
Changing formation to three at the back would require every player to adapt to the new style, and some players to adapt to different positions. Louis Van Gaal also failed with a 3-5-2 formation at the beginning of his Premier League campaign with Manchester United, therefore the idea does not always work. However, it would provide a fresh spark to any team and allows lots of attacking play which West Ham can take advantage of with their many flair players like Payet, Lanzini, Feghouli, Antonio and Töre.
West Ham have the funds to buy a new left-back and it would not leave a significant dent in the summer transfer budget. However it is important West Ham choose the right player for the right price. In my opinion, I would go for Kolarov on loan, because we only need him short-term therefore we should save our money. Manchester City will want him off the wage bill next season as he is likely to hardly play if a new left-back is brought in. However West Ham need to make a decision if a new left-back is necessary for the potential four months that Cresswell is injured.
I also think Ogbonna would be impressive as a left-back for West Ham. If he can do it for Juventus, he can do it for the Hammers. It would save money, and would not require a change of formation as I stated before.
If it was my decision, I would pursue Kolarov on loan, considering the length of Cresswells injury. If Cresswell was out for around two months or less, I would have played Ogbonna left-back until Cresswell returns, however due to Cresswell’s potential four month absence, this is not the appropriate decision in my view. Comment with your thoughts on the situation and what you would do if you were Slaven Bilic.