With Liverpool's Uruguayan in spectacular form at present, his trickery will cause the Spurs backline a problem tonight. However, the burden will be eased if AVB drops Dawson back to the bench...
It was nice to finally register a win for the first time in four Premier League games during Tottenham Hotspur’s comprehensive 3-1 victory over London rivals West Ham United on Sunday. Following a mixed start to the season, the previous four domestic encounters have been hard to take, that’s for sure.
Following an injury to Mousa Dembele, Spurs lacked the cohesion and attacking verve that the Belgian brought to the side. Coming from deep, the 25-year-old would break forward and drive at players, putting the opposition on the back foot and utilise the movement of quartet Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale, Clint Dempsey and Aaron Lennon.
Against the Hammers, despite his hip problem, Spurs showed the similar swagger they possessed during the Harry Redknapp days. Bearing down the West Ham goal with intent, it all but scared the living daylights out of centre-back pairing James Tomkins and George McCartney.
However, while much was made of the North London side going forward, defensively Spurs were astute. The realisation that Hugo Lloris is the club’s established number one, at the expense of Brad Friedel, has been welcomed by the fans, but it was the performance of the defender in front of him that has appeased the supporters.
Michael Dawson’s recall to the squad at the expense of William Gallas was met with tears of joy by the Spurs faithful. The no nonsense centre-back had been expected to depart White Hart Lane over the summer, with Queen’s Park Rangers, who remain linked with the 29-year-old, the proposed destination.
The move failed to materialise, much to the delight of supporters. Regardless of whether or not Dawson suits Andre Villas-Boas’ high defensive line, he is a fan favourite and a player that deserves to be treated with respect.
Which is why it pains me to say that he needs to be dropped if Spurs are to pick up all three points against Liverpool tonight. Against West Ham, the defender was charged with counteracting the threat of Andy Carroll, a striker that adopts that physical approach to attacking, much the way Sam Allardyce sets up his team.
With Carroll not the “modern day” front-man, it worked in Dawson’s favour. Even when Carlton Cole was introduced, the Spurs centre-back stifled the threat with minimal ease. Yet, against Luis Suarez, the new breed of striker being introduced into the Premiership, the England defender will struggle.
Passion is an attribute that the former Nottingham Forest youngster possesses in abundance and is one that has endeared himself to the Spurs faithful. Yet, against a player of Suarez’s ilk – one that is going to unpredictably drive at the opposition – it’s this trait that will likely culminate in an eventual red card for Dawson rather than see him preventing a goal for the Reds.
When on the back foot, and against a striker that can run at pace, it’s a lack thereof that hinders the defender. With a turning circle of an oil tanker, his inclusion will invite more pressure on the back four, regardless of his inability to successfully defend with his back against the wall.
The wiser option would be to move Jan Vertonghen back into centre-back and play Kyle Naughton at left-back. With Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers expected to play Raheem Sterling on the right of a front three, the pace and stamina of the youngster will solidify the backline and aid in countering the threat of the young Reds winger.
With Vertonghen and Steven Caulker in front of Lloris, Suarez’s input would be minimalized as a result of the continental approach both adopt and the pace of the duo means the defence would have a higher probability of deflecting the impending attack of the Uruguayan.
Like all Spurs fans, I was delighted to see Dawson back in the heart of the defence on Sunday – heck, I called for him to be reinstated due to the unreliability of Gallas. However, like Gandalf telling Pippin prior to the battle for Middle Earth, tonight isn’t the centre-backs fight.