West Ham United are starting to earn major recognition this year, partially thanks to the combination of Aaron Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal.
Their impressive challenge for a Champions League spot was cemented even further when they defeated Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
David Moyes has found all the right tools for a Hammers side now seriously considering a future in Europe.
Two of his most important weapons have been Coufal and Cresswell.
Here are three reasons why they are presently the Premier League’s best full-back combination.
In a season of such physical and mental demands, it’s difficult to maintain a high level of performance every week.
This is why managers have constantly been forced to rotate their teams in response to the brutal fixture schedule.
Coufal and Cresswell are the outliers. Moyes has rarely needed to replace the pair because of their reliability.
Between them, they’ve only missed one league fixture all campaign. Coufal was on the bench for West Ham’s 0-0 draw with Southampton in December.
Other than that, they’ve been an ever present for the Irons.
There is an argument to say both Manchester clubs have a better quality full-back duo.
However, City are constantly alternating and Luke Shaw hasn’t always been first-choice left-back for United.
Cresswell and Coufal are the No 1’s and it will be very difficult to dislodge them.
Their longevity in the side has been mirrored by the ever-present quality they offer in defence and attack.
Cresswell tops the assists charts for defenders with six, alongside Lucas Digne of Everton.
Andy Robertson and Shaw remain on five, with Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell on four.
Coufal has three to his name, which is level with Trent Alexander-Arnold, who built a reputation upon such statistics.
According to WhoScored.com, only two other fullbacks have made more clearances than the Czech Republic international (54) in 2020/21.
He also sits sixth for total tackles (49) and fifth for key passes (25).
Having joined from Salvia Prague for just £5.4 million (BBC Sport) last October, Coufal could be one of the best West Ham signings in recent memory.
Another underrated skill Coufal and Cresswell possess is their positional flexibility.
Moyes has frequently been able to deploy the latter at centre-half in a back three or back five, as well as his customary left-back role.
This might be a natural progression for the 31-year-old as he begins to manage his minutes more carefully.
With Coufal, the Hammers boss has used him at right back or wing back to similar effect.
There really are few better examples of such diverse defenders in the divison.
Joao Cancelo and Oleksandr Zinchenko are perhaps the only exceptions, with Pep Guardiola often using them as auxiliary central midfielders for City.
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