We have seen a light fade from the last ember of candle wick, then witness a rekindling flame that has steadily grown in intensity to light up our defence and give purpose to our left side advances.
Aaron Cresswell, who like many others suffered with performance blues and confidence lows over the last two seasons, has demonstrated a growing presence and confidence in Moyes’s rejigged back three. I readily admit that I would often be critical of his performances, the quality of his crosses and even his link up play going forward…but that seems such a distant memory now.
“When this ultimate crisis comes… when there is no way out – that is the very moment when we explode from within and the totally other emerges: the sudden surfacing of a strength, a security of unknown origin, welling up from beyond reason, rational expectation, and hope.” – Emile Durkheim
Unlike many other players under Bilic, I would never accuse Cresswell of demotivated application. In fact, I witnessed frustration etched on his face anytime there was a misplaced pass or a break in the defences. He regularly wore his feelings on his short sleeves that would indicate there might be more than a little discord within the camp.
His commitment was sometimes overshadowed by a below par performance but overwhelmingly in turn by the woeful team display. There were failings all over the pitch, however there were few that could still hold their head higher for effort.
The lad from Liverpool who returned to his native lands over the weekend, started his career with Tranmere Rovers, then onto Ipswich before finally joining West Ham in the summer of 2014. He rightfully earned the Hammer of the Year at the end of the 2014/2015 season and made the most appearances in the last season at Upton Park too, also bagging a couple of goals along the way. Does anyone remember the screamer he scored against Leicester City that season? One never to forget!
So after two very successful seasons with the Hammers, the future looked bright with a new stadium to play in, European sojourns and the promise of playing with world class players. Well, we all know what followed…and it wasn’t what any of us expected.
After picking up a knee ligament injury in the summer of 2016, he would be out of action until the autumn, but by the time he returned, the team was already under increasing pressure and the manager was desperate for a much needed win. Many sections of fans were venting their displeasure and already calling for heads to roll. The league position was less than flattering and the performances had been lacklustre too.
Summer signings had failed to hit the mark or impress in any manner and many wondered who was to blame for their dismal displays…the manager or the owners…or both? The whole team began to spiral downwards, heads were low and there needed to be some injection to revitalise the group.
Fortuitously Cresswell returned, albeit for a short spell before a suspension was paid for a brace of yellows against Crystal Palace, however not before passing for Lanzini to net the winning goal and earning us a much needed three points.
Whilst he made many errors in that first season at the London Stadium, he was not alone and should not assume most of the blame either. There were rash challenges that he is still prone to committing and whilst he made steady advances on the left hand side, much of his delivery has disappeared as with the extinction of hope for a successful first campaign in the new igloo of cold and dampened spirits, that we now called a home?
Like many others suffering in a similar manner, I could not fathom how players would fall from such heights of the previous season. I would look around at the despondent faces, grimaces and gnarls and wonder if we were being too harsh on a team that was obviously feeling home sick but never dare utter such feelings.
As is par for the course in modern football, we tend to point the finger at the manager instead of the most valued assets. I felt sincerely sorry for Bilic and was ashamed that so many players would let the team and the management down, but I also knew that it was time for somebody new to take the reins and lead the pack of huskies out of their slumber to charge the new winter, head on and with rejuvenated purpose.
I place Cresswell in that group of players that were not performing well but were still determined to do the very best they could for the team and the club. Like a few other stutterers, he found freedom of expression within the confines of the Moyes regime. He was given a new purpose on the left side of a defensive three and to ably feed a blossoming Masuaku ahead of him. “Defence” was the cry from the sidelines…to stop the leaks and make the team hard to beat.
Cresswell has taken to his new role with gusto and it was evident in the early games that a revival might well be on the cards under Moyes. It was noted that the body language was improving, confidence was rising and the players were starting to buy into this new resolute posturing…to the point when Chelsea were defeated at the London Stadium…who was grinning like the Cheshire cat at the final whistle? Cresswell of course, with he and Moyes sharing a moment of vindication and utter joy.
Of course it would be remiss to overly praise a player who is still subject to error or a low successful crossing percentage, however he has shown moments when that would seem to be behind him, such as in the West Bromwich Albion game where he delivered a fantastic first time cross for Andy Carroll to head home to level the match.
Confidence breeds confidence which delivers improving performances to build momentum. Cresswell has certainly benefited from the stewardship under Moyes and the direction of the coaching staff. He has become steady at the back but has the ability to link up with accurate passing. Yes, there are still moments that give us pause for thought, but he has shown his worth and has come through the dark days to rise as one of our shining lights.
The level of fan expectation will always be for players to do their very best, to show their commitment to the cause regardless of result. We do not always envision great performances, however all games warrant passion and dedication until the final whistle…and Cresswell has displayed that time and time again. Even the poor result at Liverpool where we were largely outplayed for the entire match, Cresswell did not necessarily shine above all the rest but he did not sink and drown either.
He may not be the Hammer of the Year for this season, but he has grown into his new role, has been steady and resolute at the back. He’s been average at times, but fantastic in other games and certainly good enough for me to retain his place…even with Patrice Evra waiting in the wings. Now with Fonte departing, Cresswell may have secured his place in Moyes’s back three whilst affording Evra the opportunity to play alongside him. The next three games will be crucial…to sure up the back and push on in attack to get as near to maximum points as possible…and fantastic Cress…well good enough for me, might just be that key player to achieve that.