This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Crystal Palace must look to exploit West Ham’s weak link in defence this Saturday when they travel to the London Stadium to take on the Hammers – Aaron Cresswell.
Roy Hodgson’s men are in good form and find themselves 9th in the Premier League after a decent start to the campaign, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side have been even better.
The Irons sit 5th in the league and have lost just once in seven league games – this will presumably be an interesting spectacle given both sides’ fortunes so far.
It could well be decided by this key battle…
Well, the former Ipswich man started the season opener against Manchester City, and was part of a defence that conceded five against the champions.
Pellegrini then bought Arthur Masuaku into the lineup for the next game against Brighton.
The Senegal international kept his spot in the XI before missing the visit of Manchester United due to suspension, where Cresswell then scored a stunning free-kick and kept his place for the trip to Bournemouth, which saw him score again.
In that campaign, Cresswell started just 18 of the Hammers’ 38 Premier League games and Pellegrini was presumably left unconvinced by his ability to start on a regular basis, seeing as Masuaku was also handed 19 starts.
As well as attempting to pin Cresswell back for his defensive frailties, Zaha must also keep the three-cap England international under wraps due to the fact that the left-back is in good goalscoring form and could pop up with another.
Above that fact though, the Ivory Coast international will be key for Palace up against Cresswell – Zaha has lined up on the right flank five times already this term.
It goes almost without saying that the former Manchester United winger is rapid, whereas Cresswell is anything but and sometimes it can boil down to a simplicity such as that – Cresswell will have to be positionally focused and keep tabs on Zaha, for he will have great difficulty catching up to him in a footrace.
Zaha’s skill and speed, coupled with Cresswell’s lack of, should mean Hodgson instructs his No.11 to target the Hammers No.3. But if the Englishman’s recent form proves anything, it’s that this will be a job that affects both ends of the pitch.