West Ham ace Craig Dawson was like Andrea Pirlo for 90 minutes and there was nothing Aston Villa could do about it.
While Declan Rice and – injury comeback permitting – Jarrod Bowen look the most likely candidates for this season’s prestigious Hammer of the Year award, Craig Dawson is surely a serious rival for that honour.
The veteran defender has been an underdog from the very start, arriving at West Ham on a wave of underwhelmed sighs.
Don’t take our word for it, Dawson has admitted as much himself.
And there is nothing West Ham fans love more than an underdog story or an unlikely hero.
Dawson embodies both of those things.
The centre-back has been absolutely pivotal to West Ham’s meteoric rise under David Moyes.
A proper, old fashioned defender and consummate professional, Dawson has been a rock this season.
Dawson has stood tall and played through injury while West Ham were having serious issues in central defence from losing Angelo Ogbonna to an ACL injury, to the Kurt Zouma saga and Issa Diop’s career low form.
When Steven Gerrard waxed lyrical about the Hammers as he analysed his Aston Villa side’s 2-1 defeat to West Ham on Sunday – his words suggested it was the likes of dominant Dawson who impressed him the most.
But besides Dawson’s excellent defensive display and attacking aerial threat – which should have resulted in a goal – there was something remarkable about the 32-year-old’s performance at the London Stadium.
Because West Ham ace Dawson was like Andrea Pirlo and there was nothing Aston Villa could do about it.
Dawson registered an incredible 93.5% pass success percentage for West Ham against Villa (WhoScored).
But what makes that astonishing stat even more incredible is the fact most of his passes were raking 30-50 yard balls straight to feet as he set up attack after attack for the Hammers.
Dawson’s passing was so good it brought back memories of Italian pass master Pirlo.
Whether it was balls over the top, perfectly placed into feet at pace, sprayed diagonally or down the line, Dawson was finding his Hammers teammates with unerring accuracy.
It helped West Ham completely bypass Villa’s midfield and rid the Hammers of the slow, plodding build-up that has become an unwelcome feature of the Irons’s game for some time now.
It also helped keep Villa’s full-backs pinned back in their own half.
Even the great Pirlo only averaged just over 86% pass success completion stats throughout his glorious career (WhoScored).
What a performance from Dawson against Villa. And what a man.
A massive shout in the running for Hammer of the Year.