Tottenham Focus - Is playing Dawson and Gallas an invitation for trouble?
Tottenham took a second successive three points at White Hart Lane against Liverpool, but this was a far from comfortable victory. If Spurs dominated the first 30 minutes with their fluid, pacey attacking play, Liverpool dominated possession for the remainder.
Spurs defence looked assured against West Ham, yet against Liverpool there seemed more of an all hands to the pump effort at times about the defence. Was this because of the choice of both William Gallas and Michael Dawson at centre-back? To date, one or other [predominantly Gallas] has been selected but alongside a younger partner. These partnerships might not always have worked but did the match against Liverpool highlight the limitations of Dawson and Gallas as a pairing?
In the first 30 minutes the high defensive line held. The concentration of play into the Liverpool half allowed Spurs to control possession and attack with a fluidity and purpose. Spurs scored two goals and looked comfortable. However as Liverpool came back into the match, the trio of Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Jose Enrique looked more threatening. The high defensive line disappeared and Spurs became increasingly nervous.
Dawson’s average position was one of the deepest of any centre-back for Spurs this season. Gallas’ was only marginally higher. The reason appeared to be about pace - the lack of it in both centre-backs against that of Liverpool’s attackers. The effect was tangible. Spurs’ shape changed, with spaces appearing between defence and midfield, midfield and attack. This space meant it was more difficult to retain possession with Liverpool exploiting the gaps. The centre-backs found it difficult to pass to Sandro or Moussa Demebelé and as a consequence Jermain Defoe was starved of service. As a result, the centre-back pairing resorted to more and more long balls - which gave Defoe little chance. Possession was quickly turned over and Liverpool attacked again, only for the cycle to repeat itself.
With the centre-backs struggling, the substitution of Clint Dempsey for Gylfi Sigurdsson was arguably a strange call. André Villas-Boas could have strengthened centre midfield instead. Perhaps the more appropriate change would have been to bring substitute Gallas or Dawson for Kyle Naughton at left-back, switching Vertonghen to centre. Liverpool may have still offered a threat but with more pace in the back four the high defensive line could be restored, enabling Spurs to link defence, midfield and attack, bringing back shape and balance and giving Spurs more of a threat going forward.
The fact that Spurs held out may have been due to several factors. Last ditch heroics by the centre-backs, cover and good performances from both full-backs and the performance Sandro along with the aforementioned paucity of Liverpool’s attack. However, Spurs may not be so fortunate against a better attacking team.
Villas-Boas has been unlucky with defensive injuries and it may be doubtful that with a full complement of players to select from that either Dawson or Gallas would start. Until then though, is it inviting trouble to start both as a centre-back pairing?
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