The contract extension granted to West Ham United left back Aaron Cresswell on Wednesday took many people by surprise.
The club announced the news on its official website, revealing that the 29-year-old will now stay at the London Stadium until 2023. However, one man’s success is a setback for another, specifically a talented Hammers teenager who is undoubtedly ready to make a first team breakthrough.
Yes, Ben Johnson. The 19-year-old came into the starting line up for just one game last season – against the champions Manchester City in February – and performed very well. However, with both of the left backs ahead of him now tied down for the foreseeable future, the youngster has surely now been left out in the cold.
Cresswell, as we know, is under contract until 2023. Meanwhile, Arthur Masuaku will be in east London until 2026 [Source: Spotrac]. That doesn’t exactly suggest a first team breakthrough is imminent for Johnson.
That’s a real shame, because given time the teenager could provide the top class left back play that has eluded both Masuaku and Cresswell thus far. They’ve both done well in fits and starts, but have been woeful at other times. Johnson, though, is a real talent.
He’s obviously only played one first team game and so it’s difficult to compare what he did with how Messrs Cresswell and Masuaku have done this season, but the statistics from that contest – against the champions – suggests he could do a good job.
As per WhoScored.com, Johnson made more clearances and drew more offsides in that game than either Cresswell or Masuaku have averaged this campaign. Furthermore, he wasn’t far off the duo in interceptions. Those two latter categories show that he has tactical awareness beyond his years.
Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t look like he will be making the step up from the Under-23s to the senior side any time soon, and that’s a real shame.