I never really understood that song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. Surely paving paradise and putting up a parking lot would provide better parking solutions in inner city areas? However, the notion that ‘you don’t know what you got till it’s gone’ struck a chord last Saturday night after watching the highlights of Spurs’ 3-1 capitulation against Sunderland. With Michael Dawson missing through injury, Tottenham appeared both vulnerable and meek. All of a sudden, the song began resonating. It’s only now that Dawson is out the side, that we fully appreciate how important he is to the side. Thanks Joni Mitchell.
Whilst attributing Tottenham’s insipid performance to Dawson’s absence would be churlish, it is no coincidence that Spurs struggled defensively without the big Yorkshireman. Kaboul and Bassong hardly inspired confidence, but the statistical evidence is arguably a more apt way of assessing Dawson’s continued importance to the Tottenham cause. In the 23 league games that Dawson has started this term, Tottenham have conceded just 13 goals (an average of 0.6 goals conceded per game). Without Dawson in the starting line-up, Spurs have conceded 19 goals in 9 games, meaning Tottenham are liable to concede 1.5 more goals per game without Dawson in the side. Tottenham can also take immense pride in boasting the best defensive record at home in the Premier League, conceding just 10 goals (although Arsenal and Chelsea have yet to play at the lane).
Last season, Dawson’s record was equally impressive. In the 16 league games he started, Tottenham conceded just 15 goals, and this form at the tail-end of the season saw Tottenham secure eighth place, despite fighting what appeared to be a relegation battle at the seasons mid-way point. In short, Dawson might well have become the player that many at Tottenham hoped, but doubted he would. There was a feeling that whilst Dawson was capable of playing well in a defence marshalled by an experienced defender such as Ledley King or Jonathan Woodgate, he was a liability when asked to lead the defence alone.
In hindsight, expecting Dawson to perform alongside the likes of Ricardo Rocha or a relatively inexperienced Younes Kaboul back in the 2007, was a tad punitive. Tottenham had little protection from the midfield either in those heady days under Matin Jol and Juande Ramos, and so Dawson’s reputation as a quality defender suffered unjustly. However, with Wilson Palacios and Heurelho Gomes now offering the defence a protection the side lacked with Didier Zakora and Paul Robinson in the side, Dawson in particular appears to be a different player. Whether alongside King, Woodgate or even the young Cameroon defender Sebastian Bassong, Dawson plays to a high standard week in week out, and is now a player the side relies upon.
The credit for the turnaround in Dawson’s career however, must also go in some part to Harry Redknapp, Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond. Many have questioned the man-management Redknapp employs, and have identified his treatment of Roman Pavlyuchenko as evidence of poor player relations. However, Pavlyuchenko’s form has arguably benefitted from Harry’s cold shoulder, whilst Bale and Dawson in particular look like completely different characters, both in terms of their confidence and application, and this is in no small part down to coaching.
Redknapp told the Evening Standard ahead of Tottenham’s game with Portsmouth that:
“Michael is having the most fantastic season. If you’re looking for a central defender to play for England or be in the squad, you won’t do any better than him.
“England have a couple of great central defenders in Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, but in Michael and Ledley King we have a couple of great centre-halves here.”
Whether or not Dawson ends up playing for England this summer is a moot point, but in the mean time, he will have a major part to play in the run-in to Tottenham’s season. He’s been out for just one week, but after a 3-1 defeat to Sunderland, it is already clear how the side miss him, and his is truly a case of absence making the heart grow fonder…
This is for you Michael…
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