By Wayne Dixon

18th Nov, 2020 | 5:56pm

WHZ Stats: Cresswell unexpectedly thrives going forward in West Ham back-three

Since a defeat to Newcastle United on the opening day of the season, West Ham have switched to a 3-4-3 formation.

The move has been a definitive success, with the Hammers suffering just two league defeats since, despite a run that has seen them face Arsenal, Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Liverpool.

One player in particular that has thrived in a new role is Aaron Cresswell, with the 30-year-old adapting brilliantly to a left-sided centre-back role in the three-man defence.

Having built his reputation around his ability to hit pinpoint crosses, a move into a more defensive position could have seen the former Ipswich Town man place less emphasis on his attacking strengths. However, the result has been the complete opposite and his attacking numbers have been excellent so far this season.

In eight starts, Creswell averages 455.5 yards in progressive passing distance per 90 minutes, completing 2.25 key passes and 4.25 final third entry passes a game (via FBRef). No West Ham player has completed as many passes as the 30-year-old, while he completes eight long passes per 90. He has also generated 3.25 shot-creating actions and 0.20 expected assists per 90 (via FBRef).

For someone with a role that is predominantly a defensive one, his output has been very impressive and a key part of his side’s ability to progress the ball up the pitch and create chances.

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However, his defensive work has been solid too, despite him not being a natural centre-back and lacking the physical attributes of the likes of Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena and Angelo Ogbonna.

So far this season, he has completed 2.13 tackles and interceptions and 3.5 clearances per 90 (via FBRef), while he has formed a great partnership down the left with wing-back Arthur Masuaku. The 27-year-old is enjoying one of his best spells in the side as a result, starting seven of the Hammers opening eight league fixtures.

Cresswell has been consistently excellent for the Hammers for a number of seasons now, but his rapid adaptation to this new role is particularly impressive.

In other West Ham news, why Moyes needs to rethink the Hammers’ attacking set up