West Ham can sign their next Aaron Cresswell by beating Aston Villa in £17m English defender race

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The Hammers are one of several clubs being linked with a new left-back this summer

Archie Brown’s career path has not necessarily been orthodox. Still only 22 years old, the defender began his career at Derby County, progressing through the Rams’ academy system before taking the plunge and heading to mainland Europe to sign for Swiss outfit Lausanne and eventually current club Gent.

There aren’t many young English players who would have possessed the self-belief to take such a bold leap of faith so soon after emerging into the senior game, but Brown’s moxie has been justly vindicated; the starlet has played 44 times for Gent across all competitions so far this season, mainly operating as a left-back, but occasionally featuring further forward as a winger, or in the centre of defence.

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His performances have not gone unnoticed either. According to reports, the likes of Chelsea, Everton, and West Ham have all been monitoring his progress in recent months, with the Hammers, alongside Premier League rivals Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, making material enquiries into his potential availability this summer. Elsewhere, French giants Lyon are also understood to be in pursuit.

For their part, Gent are not necessarily averse to selling Brown in the coming months, but the suggestion is that they could hold out for as much as £17 million before seriously considering his exit from the Planet Group Arena. At that valuation, he would represent a significant, but nevertheless affordable, outlay for many of the English clubs being linked with his signature.

Of the chasing pack, you could make an argument for Brown being a worthwhile acquisition for just about any of them, but perhaps it is West Ham who need a new left-back more than most. With Aaron Cresswell rapidly approaching the end of his contract at the London Stadium, and with Julen Lopetegui’s only other senior option being Emerson Palmieri, cover and competition will almost certainly be a priority this summer.

To that end, Brown would represent a talent capable of offering strength in depth in the here and now while also boasting an incredibly high ceiling of potential. Much will depend on Lopetegui’s opinion of Palmieri, of course, but if the incoming manager is happy to trust in the Brazilian as his starting option, then there is no reason to believe that Brown couldn’t be a smart deputy alternative with the pedigree and promise to usurp in the near future.

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Having just received international recognition as a member of England’s youthful Elite League Squad for the first time, the Gent defender is on a steady upwards trajectory, and one that shows no sign of slowing any time soon. The next obvious step feels like a return to his homeland to test his mettle in the Premier League, and while Aston Villa with their Champions League football, and Crystal Palace with their sudden explosion in form under Oliver Glasner, might feel like incredibly tempting options for the full-back, this is surely a race that West Ham have to be looking to win.

If they do, they will secure themselves the readymade Cresswell replacement they so obviously need.

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