“We are apprehensive but it doesn’t look minor.”
This was part of a tweet from West Ham chairman David Gold following the substitution of left-back Aaron Cresswell in the final five minutes of the Hammers’ pre-season friendly victory over German club Karlsruher.
The results of scans will clarify the full extent of Cresswell’s knee injury, but the initial diagnosis suggests that the 26-year-old could be sidelined for as long as six months.
Although the focus for the Hammers for much of the summer has been on the recruitment of a new striker, defensively Slaven Bilic’s men look a little light too, particularly after the sale of James Tomkins to Crystal Palace.
Cresswell started 37 of West Ham’s 38 Premier League games last season and no obvious back-up exists in Bilic’s squad. Youngster Stephen Hendrie has already joined Blackburn on a season-long loan and Angelo Ogbonna would be an unenthusiastic stand in, especially over such a lengthy period.
Signing another left-back now looks a necessity if West Ham are to justify odds of 11/4 to break into the top six following their near miss last term. Here are three players that should be on their shortlist:
Despite playing close to 400 minutes less than Cresswell in the top flight last term, Norwich’s Brady completed over four times the number of dribbles, over double the number of tackles and almost twice the number of crosses.
Canaries boss Alex Neil has indicated that the Irishman is aware of the current situation surrounding his future with the relegated club, where Norwich will be willing to listen to offers if “someone comes in with the right money”.
It is likely to take more than the £11m Southampton paid for Nathan Redmond to capture Brady from the Championship side.
A similar sum in the £12m ballpark is liable to be needed to tempt PSV Eindhoven into selling their first choice left back.
Despite only being 22, Willems has already been capped 20 times by the Dutch national team and is a full-back who loves to attack. Last season, he gained four Eredivisie assists and averaged over two crosses per game.
His overlapping runs would work well in tandem with Dimitri Payet, if the Frenchman starts down the left, and with crossing being the biggest strength of his game, Willems could prove the perfect supplier to Andy Carroll.
Cresswell was regularly touted as one of the Football League’s best full-backs when at Ipswich, but it was the Hammers who decided to take the punt that he could make the step up required to the Premier League. They did the same in January to bolster their right-back options with Leeds’ Sam Byram.
Following a similar path for a third time would lead them to Walsall’s Rico Henry, who featured in the PFA League One team of the year last season.
There have already been comparisons to a young Ashley Cole because of his energy and love of getting forward from left back. Henry is still only 19.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing