Whilst since the turn of the year Big Sam’s men have hardly covered themselves in much glory – especially with the club’s away loss to Premier League strugglers Leicester City last weekend – 2014/15 has nevertheless been a season of overall improvement for West Ham United.
And much of that turnaround in fortunes has been down to the many successful new additions that emerged at Upton Park over the summer. The likes of Diafra Sakho, Cheikhou Kouyate and Alex Song, despite the Barcelona loanee’s widely noticed dip in form in the last few months, have ultimately turned the Hammers into a much stronger outfit in the grand scheme of things – even if recent results simply don’t promote much positivity at the moment.
However, whilst the aforementioned foreign imports have certainly made a difference for Sam Allardyce this season, perhaps it is West Ham’s two new English full-backs that deserve the most praise. Both Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson have simply been a like breath of fresh air for the Upton Park faithful throughout the course of this year’s campaign.
In light of such a notion then, just which player has ultimately made the bigger impact for the team this season?
Before the real bulk of this discussion can be met, it must be said that Hammers fans in general really aren’t used to having two solid full-backs filling such a vital role in the team on a consistent basis. Supporters need only cast their minds back to the ill-fated days of Tal Ben Haim, Jonathan Spector and Wayne Bridge at the back in the claret & blue, to realise that defending has just never been West Ham’s strong point.
With the likes of Aaron Cresswell now firmly placed within the starting XI however, those rather frustrating defensive memories are now hopefully behind the club in its attempts to restore some glory back in the east end. The 25-year-old Liverpudlian signed for the Hammers for a reported £3.5 million from Ipswich back at the beginning of the season, and Big Sam simply hasn’t looked back since.
Cresswell has a fine left peg on him that has often proved to be the creator of many of West Ham’s headed goals this season. He gets up and down the flanks with impressive speed, is just as audacious and determined at the back as he is in attack – and with the player himself playing every single minute of Premier League action so far this term – the consistency in Cresswell’s performances has been nothing short of remarkable.
The former Championship favourite has therefore received praise from many quarters of the footballing community this year, with a potential England call-up being touted for the emerging new talent in the last couple of weeks.
That then leads us on nicely to one Carl Jenkinson…
The current Arsenal loanee has also been a fantastic new addition to Big Sam’s defence in 2014/15, with the 23-year-old England U21 international proving equally as important on the right wing as Aaron Cresswell has been on the left.
Jenko may have looked a bit tackle shy in his opening games in a West Ham shirt, he might not have seemed the strongest on the ball initially and even looked a bit lacking in his overall technical ability at first – but with the majority of the 2014/15 campaign now already recorded – the Gunners man has simply come on a great deal.
The no.18 has given his teammates another strong outlet down the flanks for most of this season, he has become a great deal more confident and assured in his approach – and in very similar style Aaron Cresswell – consistency has perhaps been the strongest aspect of Jenkinson’s overall performance this year as well.
Hopefully, if finances and circumstance allow, David Sullivan and David Gold can successfully make the young English defender’s stay in the east end a permanent one in the run up to next season.
With everything about these two new players in mind then, it simply becomes too hard a task to try and confidently argue the significance of one above the other. On this occasion, sitting on the fence is seemingly the only suitable option to take – as with both Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell proving vital for the Hammers this season – it really does seem pointless trying to separate them.
The Upton Park faithful can therefore take pride in the fact that their team possess two of the most promising full-backs in the league this campaign, even if the club’s recent fortunes have dramatically failed to raise the spirit in and around Upton Park for a good while now.