Craig Dawson has been a pillar of consistency since joining West Ham and he is proving he can do it against the best ahead of Saturday’s Manchester City clash.
The Irons faced a Spurs side in rotten form on Sunday but they still possessed two of the Premier League’s most feared marksmen in Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son who have 13 goals apiece to sit just behind Mohamed Salah and Bruno Fernandes in the golden boot race.
Son is famed for his dangerous runs in between the right-back and right-sided central defender but Dawson, alongside Vladimir Coufal, snuffed out his threat at the London Stadium.
The way they dealt with the Spurs winger could be indicative of the approach they take to Raheem Sterling at the Etihad Stadium and they will need to maintain the same levels of concentration against the England international who has four goals in his last six games.
According to Wyscout Dawson made eight interceptions v Spurs – he has not topped this figure in any of his previous nine Premier League appearances.
He also recovered the ball 11 times – the only time he has made more was v Burnley on January 16.
His efforts against Son in the match may not catch the eye at first glance but his positioning and constant screening of what is around him was so valuable in keeping the South Korean quiet.
Take a look at the image below for the first clue.
Son is being marked by Coufal but there is clear open space between the Irons midfield and defence.
As you can see below, the Czech Republic international becomes out-numbered with the surging run of Sergio Reguilon on the left and points for someone else to pick Son up who is darting infield.
It is great communication on Coufal’s part but is matched by Dawson’s defensive anticipation.
He takes the initiative to launch himself forward and block the space in front of Son.
The ball is instead played to Reguilon and Dawson shuffled back while still keeping tabs on the Spurs attacker, and West Ham get bodies back.
This was a constant theme throughout the match and the next example shows the defensive nous of Dawson as he constantly surveys his surroundings.
He is always on the half-turn to watch out for Son on his shoulder as he attempts to make his usual forays between defenders.
But the 30-year-old Watford loanee is too smart to be caught out by this and maintains a great line with his fellow defensive stoppers.
He then fronts Son up and gets tight to him when the ball behind proves impossible and this engagement leaves the Spurs winger pretty useless and a passenger in possession as he is man-marked.
Son’s frustration was evident and he was a much more withdrawn figure than usual.
The following two examples are taken from either half but show him in a much wider position than normal despite Spurs being on dangerous attacks.
It looks like Dawson really got the better of him and his close attention forced Son to move wider to create some space.
But that’s not where he is at his breathtaking best and the Irons were happy for him to shuttle across there.
An even tougher challenge awaits the Hammers against Manchester City on Saturday as they make the trip to face the league leaders who have won their last 18 games in all competitions.
They contain many attacking threats but none more dangerous than Sterling who is adept at skipping in between defenders with ease.
Much like Son, one of his trademarks is the run between defender and full-back and Dawson and co must be on top form once again.
But it is clear to see the dominant Dawson is having a huge effect on some of the very best forwards in the business and he will be confident of matching this against Pep Guardiola’s side.
He has proven to be one of the shrewdest signings of the season and will be pivotal to West Ham chances of securing a positive result on Saturday and ultimately a European place this campaign.
In other West Ham news, Simon Jordan makes claim on Jesse Lingard’s future.