Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday sees them move back into third position in the Premier League and gives the side a boost going into the business end of the season. Despite the much-applauded attacking exploits of the White Hart Lane side this term, their dogged defensive efforts in their derby win must be recognised. Jan Vertonghen stood out with a masterful and assured performance at the heart of the Spurs rearguard, however captain Michael Dawson epitomised the side’s will to win in the encounter.
The England international has been a growing presence in a Tottenham team that have challenged for top-four inclusion over the last number of years, however with Andre Villas-Boas’ appointment in the summer Dawson’s future was unclear. With the Portuguese coach stating that he wanted only four central defenders on the books, it was Dawson who was deemed surplus to requirements, to the raised eyebrows of some of the White Hart Lane faithful.
A move to London neighbours QPR in the summer fell through, and Dawson remained at Spurs. Over the course of the season, partly due to injury to Younes Kaboul and a dip in form from William Gallas, he has found himself back in the side. Dawson must receive plaudits for doing the work on the training ground to get back in contention, while Villas-Boas must also be admired for revising his initial negative opinion of the player.
Gareth Bale has been the star of the show in Spurs’ excellent run of form recently, but Dawson, donning the captain’s armband once more, has added steel and heart in the Tottenham defence. He may admittedly lack the poise of Vertonghen or the speed of Kaboul, but countless other positive qualities were on show in the win over Arsenal at the weekend.
Dawson positional play makes up for a lack of pace, and he was in the right place at the right time to make vital interceptions and clearance against the Gunners. His anger at Arsenal’s failure to put the ball out of play whilst Emmanuel Adebayor was injured showed a real passion for the cause, while his jubilant celebration after the match exemplified his sheer will-to-win.
The Englishman’s inclusion also adds a dominant figure at the heart of the side, with his communication, organisation and team-work outstanding. Along with Scott Parker, Spurs had the leaders on the pitch that Arsenal lack in the derby.
Even when Kaboul returns from injury, Villas-Boas now must realise that his first-choice pairing of Dawson and Vertonghen must remain. The pair were a rock at the heart of Spurs defence in the win over Arsenal, and Dawson’s influence critical in a vitally important win.