West Ham United were poor in the 0-2 defeat to Arsenal last week. The Hammers were simply not up to the task and Arsenal took advantage of this. But it was Craig Dawson, who was technically their best player on the pitch and did not make many mistakes. The centre-back was incredibly tenacious against Arsenal. Dawson won everything in the air, made a couple of crucial tackles, and one incredible block just before half-time from a Gabriel Martinelli shot. He continuously put his body on the line and for a period, there was no way past him. He made four blocks and two tackles, but sadly, his efforts weren’t enough to keep the Gunners at bay for the entire game.
It seemed clear that West Ham missed the presence of centre-backs Angelo Ogbonna and Kurt Zouma. The Italian is going to be out for a long time with an ACL injury and may not play again this season, while Zouma is out with a knee injury and is not expected to be back till early 2022. This means Craig Dawson will come in to replace him and partner with Issa Diop for the next month.
Craig Dawson has now become the Hammers’ first-choice centre-half after Angelo Ogbonna and Kurt Zouma both went down with injuries, and it’s fair to say he’s stepping up. The centre-back is covering brilliantly for Ogbonna and Zouma, but sadly, West Ham’s recent results are not exactly showing this picture.
Dawson has been a regular starter for West Ham since he was brought on for Ogbonna against Liverpool in November. He has been playing as the right centre-half in the 4-2-3-1 system that Moyes has been playing with and has displayed some brilliant performances.
The 31-year-old was excellent last season, cementing a place in Moyes’ starting XI. Also, in the early stage of this campaign, before the arrival of Zouma, Dawson was not convincing, such as in the 2-2 draw to Crystal Palace. There have been good moments this season for Dawson though. He again proved reliable when needed in the wins over Liverpool and then Man City in the Carabao Cup, where he scored an emphatic penalty.
Craig Dawson has attempted 10.26 defensive actions per 90 minutes and has been able to win 87.8% of these actions. He possesses brilliant strength, and standing at six feet two inches tall, the centre-back can win more than half of the aerial duels he attempts. His reading of the game is exceptional with the experience he has gained after playing for so many years in the Premier League. His defensive stats this season have been impressive with the games that he has played. His most noteworthy stats are his aerial duel wins and interceptions made per 90 minutes.
Dawson has attempted many duels across the pitch and has a decent success rate in winning these duels. It can be seen that most of the duels outside the penalty area are ground defending duels as well as loose ball duels. The duels inside the penalty area consist of mainly aerial duels that he was able to win. He is also a huge threat to the opposition defense, when it comes to set-pieces.
It’s also worth noting Dawson is fantastic in the air, which is important for West Ham given their set-piece record of scoring more than any other team since Moyes returned to the Hammers. In the game against Arsenal, Dawson won three aerial duels and only lost one duel of the four he attempted.
What cannot be disputed is how much Dawson puts on the line each time he goes to the pitch for West Ham. The former West Brom and Watford man gives 100 percent every single time he is selected by his manager. The 31-year-old doesn’t get the credit that he deserves. He has barely put a foot wrong since joining West Ham. He isn’t the best with the ball at his feet, but he more than makes up for that with his desire, commitment, and aerial ability. West Ham are in the pursuit of a top-four finish again this season, and a lot will be dependent on how they perform defensively in the next couple of months as they have limited options to select.