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Will Dawson walk back into the starting XI?

Eight games unbeaten and the case for a top four finish looks all the more stronger for Tottenham. After a disasterous start to the season, it looks as thought the good ship Spurs has steadied under Harry Redknapp. And everyone knows a great team is based on a solid defence. With Brad Friedel in goal, the back-four looks sturdier and far less likely to concede than in the years gone by. Building from the back is pivotal to the best teams and with Younes Kaboul and Ledley King, when fit, proving the preferred partnership to Redknapp, it looks as though it will be tough for Michael Dawson to break his way back into the starting XI.

With that in mind, To the Lane and Back analyses whether Dawson will be able to walk back into the team and the competition that lies in front of him as the 27-year-old steps up his rehabilitation from an Achilles injury.

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Some fans say the best form of defence is a good offence. That can be said for some of the great Spurs sides of past, Ossie Ardiles’ mentality of ‘if you score one, we will score two’ may have given fans exciting football to watch at the best of times, but when push comes to shove, backs against the wall stuff like at Fulham yesterday, then the best form of defence is often, well, a great defence.

The likes of Steve Perryman, Danny Blanchflower, Sol Campbell (yes, he may be a judas, but he was superb at the back during his spell at Spurs before joining them lot down the road) and our own Ledley King have all put in performances of the highest quality in our own third and are fondly remembered by old and new fans alike as legends at White Hart Lane, Campbell perhaps not as much. Spurs currently posses a fine array of defenders including the aforementioned King, Younes Kaboul, William Gallas and Sebastien Bassong, who goes onto the list due to his excellent maiden campaign with the North London side alongside the next player on the list; Michael Dawson.

Now, Dawson, who is currently ruled out until next month with an Achilles problem, has often won the plaudits at White Hart Lane for his passion, his never say due attitude and his willingness to put his health on the line for the team. More often than not has the former Nottingham Forest trainee found himself on the end of any long ball sent goal bound by the opposition, especially when said oppo are throwing the kitchen sink, and then some, towards the back four.

Many feared for the future of Tottenham’s back four when it was initially announced that the England centre-half would be spending a prolonged period on the sidelines with the aforementioned Achilles problem, an injury that is ultimately difficult to recover from. It isn’t the first team either that Dawson has been forced onto a lengthy lay-off, suffering a knee problem at a similar time last season when on international duty in a friendly at home to Hungary. Fortunately, King was on hand to step into his place alongside Kaboul and the rest, as they say, is history.

But, will his injury blow prove to be more detrimental to the player than the club this time? Last year, when it was announced Dawson would be out for two-and-a-half months, fans feared what would happen without him in the side. This year, however, with Kaboul showing excellent form next to King and Gallas now returning to fitness, the Achilles problem may have seen Dawson jettisoned down the defensive pecking order from 1st choice centre-back to 4th.

Some of the Spurs faithful also believe Dawson has been found out by many of the Premierships quicker forwards. Easily dealing with the robust front-men, your Drogba’s and your Berbatov’s for example, is simpler for the defender but when it comes to the likes of Sergio Aguero, Robin Van Persie or Javier Hernandez, this is where Dawson really begins to struggle. A lack of pace has been exploited a number of times this season and it is no surprise that with Kaboul alongside him, a warrior-esc defender similar to the England man, Spurs shipped eight goals in just two games at the beginning of the season. 

Granted, the City deficit could have been considerably less had Scott Parker been signed before the 5-1 mauling by the league pace-setters, but with Aguero, Edin Dzeko and David Silva all running riot on the day, the defence without any real leadership were always going to struggle. The advantage of King and Gallas as part of the back- four is that both have a wealth of experience between them and while both pack this in abundance, it is also the duo’s positional sense and ability to successfully read the game that means when either Kaboul or Dawson play, one of the two are likely to be alongside them, injuries permitting. 

And since Dawson suffered his injury, Kaboul has stepped his game up a notch, especially alongside King. The partnership is similar to a captain leading a warrior and it works to superb effect, as evidenced by Spurs’ eight game unbeaten run. With the Frenchman now considered by many first choice at Spurs, with Gallas and King vying for a spot alongside him, Dawson will struggle to now reclaim his place in the starting XI.

His strength will come in handy against the more robust teams such as Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers, but up against teams that attempt to play football on the deck, United, City and Arsenal for example, Dawson is more suspect to errors and rash challenges that have lead to silly penalties or red cards in the past which, unfortunately for him, means he simply won’t be walking back into the Spurs starting XI when available for selection when he recovers from injury next month. 

Ben McAleer

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