Just like his brother, Andy, before him, Michael Dawson has become a firm fans’ favourite at the KCOM since his arrival in 2014. The former England international, who turned 33 in November, was, for the past two seasons, the first name on Steve Bruce’s teamsheet. However, recent injury problems, the emergence of Harry Maguire and Andrea Ranocchia, and a few poor performances of late – particularly last time out against Stoke City – have seen Dawson’s place in the Marco Silva’s starting XI come under increasing scrutiny. As we head to the climax of our Premier League survival campaign, where there is certainly no room for sentimentality, is it time for Silva to drop Hull City’s club captain?
While Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at the Bet365 ultimately didn’t harm City’s survival hopes too severely thanks to Watford’s victory over relegation rivals Swansea, if it wasn’t for a number of poor lapses in defensive concentration, with Dawson being the unfortunate culprit more than once, Silva’s men may have been able to take advantage of results and pull away from the drop-zone. Indeed, the Tigers’ Premier League fate is still very much in our own hands, however, after conceding six goals in our last two games City’s backline certainly needs to shore up and, in my eyes at least, Michael Dawson must be the fall guy in any defensive changes Silva decides on.
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In many ways Dawson has been unlucky this season. Following a pre-season knee injury he didn’t feature in the Premier League until October. His run in the side never really got going before a calf injury during a pre-match warm-up at the start of February ruled him out for another two months, in which time Maguire and Ranocchia established a solid partnership in the heart of the Tigers’ defence. However, the former Spurs man has been given starts in City’s last two fixtures, firstly coming in for the injured Maguire against Manchester City before partnering Ranacchia, with Maguire moving to right-back, against Stoke last weekend.
During the brief Phelan era before Christmas the Tigers were leaking goals and fans were aching for Dawson’s return. Since Silva’s appointment and the impressive performances of loanee Andrea Ranocchia, Dawson’s handful of performances have been mediocre at best. While it must be noted he is still returning to full match fitness after long-term injury, Dawson has appeared to have lost an extra yard of pace in recent games. Considering the 33-year-old was never really blessed with any great pace even in his pomp this has been painfully visible during City’s last two outings, with Dawson being given the run-around in both fixtures. This has inevitably led to shouts of, ‘his legs are gone’, by certain sections of the Hull City faithful. While I am not convinced this is necessarily the case, I do think the last five or six vital games of the season are not the matches to experiment with Dawson to find out!
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With Watford at the KCOM up next for the Tigers on Saturday, Marco Silva has a big decision on his hands. Should he go back to what was working for him just a few weeks ago and start with Maguire and Ranocchia at the heart of a back four, or will he persist with club captain Dawson? There is also scope for Silva to select a back five which could include all three, however, should Silva opt for a Steve Bruce-esque back five, I would still be tempted to select Curtis Davies ahead of the struggling Dawson.
For me the answer is simple, Dawson must be sacrificed for a tried and tested combination – Maguire and Ranacchia at the centre of a flat back four. As much as it saddens me to say, there is too much on the line for Hull City’s starting XI to contain passengers, regardless of what phenomenal players they might have been in their prime.