West Ham United icon Frank McAvennie has claimed David Moyes gave Aaron Cresswell a “kick up the backside” by fielding Arthur Masuaku in the starting line-up.
While speaking with Football Insider, McAvennie has stated how the arrival of Said Benrahma on loan from Brentford will offer Pablo Fornals competition for a place on the left-hand side of Moyes’ forward line.
The Irons legend feels the Algerian can bring from the Spaniard what Masuaku has brought out of Cresswell, having seen the former Ipswich Town defender thrive in a central defensive position after losing the left-back role to the DR Congo international.
McAvennie is unsure to what extent Benrahma can replicate his Brentford performances at the London Stadium, where Grady Diangana was sold for £18million this summer much to the anger of club captain Mark Noble.
Benrahma has since arrived on a season-long loan featuring a £20m obligation to buy, but has only recorded one assist and is yet to start in claret and blue. McAvennie was pleased with what he saw from the 25-year-old during his 18-minute cameo at home to Fulham, though.
“Benrahma played well when he came on,” McAvennie said. “I did not see the logic in selling Diangana and buying Benrahma but that does not mean that I do not rate Benrahma.
“He is proving what a fantastic player he is, and he is showing glimpses of what he can do. It looks like he will come in [and] provide competition for Fornals on the left-hand side.
“The best thing he brings is competition for places. I know Cresswell has been playing as a centre-half but Masuaku coming in has given him a kick up the backside. It keeps the team ticking.”
Moyes certainly appeared to hit gold by giving Cresswell the chance to impress at centre-half, having decided early on that Masuaku would be his preferred left-back following a move to a three-man core in defence.
Cresswell was far from at his best at left-back versus Newcastle United on the opening day of the Premier League season, having only registered two tackles, one clearance, two accurate crosses from six attempts, made no successful dribbles and lost possession 18 times, per SofaScore.
He immediately bettered that record when played at centre-half against Arsenal, with Cresswell recording six clearances, one tackle and winning each of his duels. Similarly, against Wolves, the £50,000-per-week ace registered five clearances, blocked two shots, completed 88% of his passes and played four key balls.
Cresswell’s performances have maintained that high-level, too, with a Man of the Match-worthy 8.6 rating against Leicester City thanks to six clearances, two interceptions and four key balls. He again earned the MOTM award against Fulham, as well, with 101 touches, 69 accurate passes, two clearances and one tackle as Lukasz Fabianski kept his third clean sheet of the season.
If Benrahma’s arrival can see a similar lift in Fornals’ performances as Masuaku was able to draw from Cresswell, Moyes will be in delirium at his tactical genius.