In an impressive night of football, West Ham comfortably dismissed Genk at The London Stadium.
West Ham rested Michail Antonio ahead of their derby with Spurs at the weekend, but one of their most underrated players stepped up to drive the Hammers forward to three more points, leaving them in prime position to win their group.
That player? Aaron Cresswell.
Of course lots of West Ham players performed, given the dominant nature of the win. Tomas Soucek was rock solid in midfield, Issa Diop scored a sublime header, and Jarrod Bowen stepped up to score his first European goal for the club.
But it all ran through Cresswell, as it always does. Since the start of last season no Hammer has created more chances (69), big chances (12) or assists (8) than Cresswell. And he’s done all this while, for a lot of the time last season, playing in a back three.
Alright he takes set-pieces, and this season has been a full-back in a back four, but when you think of game-dominating full-backs you think of Dani Alves or Marcelo in their pomp, or Trent Alexander-Arnold and Achraf Hakimi. Absolute superstars of the game. Not a 31 year-old called Aaron who came up through Tranmere Rovers’ youth system and played over 100 games for Ipswich.
Cresswell has done it the hard way, but now he’s in his prime and West Ham are the benficiaries.
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Tonight Genk matched West Ham reasonably well in the opening period in terms of creating chances, hurtling bodies in behind and making the most of an erratic off-night from Alphonse Areola to almost score. It looked like they were heading into the break with a 0-0 draw, but then Cresswell stepped up and sent a devastating set-piece into the box and Craig Dawson shouldered it home.
West Ham were the best team at scoring from set-pieces last season in the Premier League and that is down to Cresswell’s delivery. The way he looped the corner into the box, giving Dawson a clean look at it and allowed him to just redirect the ball in.
Aaron Cresswell's game by numbers vs. Genk:
81.8% pass accuracy
5 ball recoveries
2 chances created
Brilliant display. 😏 pic.twitter.com/Otx3KnlhT5
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 21, 2021
In the second-half when West Ham had a free-kick wide on the left, Cresswell again stepped up except this time David Moyes was unhappy. He clearly wanted a right-footed player to take an inswinging set-piece, but Declan Rice and the West Ham team put their trust in Cresswell and, hey, it worked out. Another peach of a delivery soared in for Issa Diop to rise and head home West Ham’s second. Moyes sheepishly applauded, and would no doubt admit he was wrong.
Cresswell sent in 11 crosses on the night, resulting in 2 chance (the 2 assists). He also chipped in with 2 clearances, 1 tackle and 1 interception. The Hammers are an excellent side and while the likes of Michail Antonio, Declan Rice, Manuel Lanzini and Jarrod Bowen are loudly brilliant, Aaron Cresswell is The Quiet King of The London Stadium. It all happens thanks to him.