Inside Lane: Why AVB must tweak his defence despite shut-out against Swansea

Tottenham blogger Ben McAleer looks ahead to tomorrow’s showdown with Stoke City at White Hart Lane.

When it emerged that Andre Villas-Boas was to take the helm at White Hart Lane, I feared for one player in particular – Michael Dawson.

While the no-nonsense centre-back had endeared himself to the Tottenham fans, it was clear that the high defensive line which the young head coach adopts was likely to highlight the 29-year-old’s deficiencies – just like John Terry during the Portuguese’s ill-fated stint at Chelsea.

With the turning circle of an oil tanker, smaller and quicker strikers were surely going to capitalise on his frailties, and he was nearly sold in the summer.

After appearing sporadically in cup competitions, the defender finally made his first Premier League start of the season in the 3-1 home win over West Ham United – and he rightly earned the plaudits that followed as his physically commanding presence kept Andy Carroll and co at bay.

Dawson deservedly started the subsequent victories over Liverpool and Fulham – limping off early on at Craven Cottage to the disappointment of the Spurs fans – and there have been calls for him to be re-instated to the starting XI upon his return.

Tottenham obviously did not miss him on Sunday, keeping their third clean sheet of the season in the 1-0 win over Swansea, so it would be logical for Villas-Boas to stick with the same back four this weekend.

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However, that would be suicide against Stoke, who take a notoriously direct approach to goal and are one of the deadliest teams in the league at set pieces.

These particular encounters are crying out for Dawson and, if he is fit to play, Villas-Boas would be well advised to bring him back into the rearguard to rule the skies again – just as he did so successfully against Sam Allardyce’s Hammers.

As much as it pains me to say it, that means that Sunday’s matchwinner Jan Vertonghen must return to his less favoured left-back position – and unfortunately, this also means that Kyle Naughton would be dropped to the bench as a result.

Naughton took his chance to shine against Swansea on Sunday but Stoke will test the Tottenham defence in a very different way this weekend – and the Lilywhites will stand a much better chance of victory with Dawson in the defence.

You can follow me on Twitter @BenMcAleer1