Frequently in football, transfers do not go as predicted. Sometimes, this means players with high expectations underwhelm. Other times, a player not expected to make a tremendous impact becomes one of the club’s most pivotal starters. In October, Watford loaned Craig Dawson to West Ham United. Now, he is crucial to their success – and is on the verge of becoming their player permanently.
Craig Dawson on Brink of West Ham United Permanent Deal
Initially Not Expected to Have Notable Impact
When Craig Dawson first arrived at the London Stadium, not many people expected him to make a considerable impact. After all, he was the Hornets’ fifth choice centre-back at the time of his departure. William Troost-Ekong, Craig Cathcart, Christian Kabasele, and Ben Wilmot were all preferred over him at Vicarage Road.
He sat on the bench or missed out completely of the match-day squad in each of the Hornets’ first four league matches. His only Watford minutes of the season came in a 3-1 Carabao Cup defeat against Newport County.
Even after joining West Ham, his prospects of starting minutes did not immediately improve. He was widely viewed as a back-up player that would only be called upon in emergencies. Before his first appearance on the bench, he played poorly in a 3-0 EFL Trophy defeat against Peterborough United. But from there, his performances have more than dramatically improved.
Craig Dawson Nearing Permanent Transfer After Proving Critics Wrong
Since his first start for West Ham on December 29 against Southampton, Dawson has been nothing short of undroppable. He has not missed a league minute since, and the only match he was omitted from was against Doncaster Rovers in the FA Cup for resting purposes.
In his 12 league appearances, the 30-year-old tallied up three goals and six clean sheets. There are even cries that Dawson should play with England at the upcoming European Championship. His performances justify those claims.
Now, David Ornstein, Roshane Thomas, and Adam Leventhal of The Athletic report a permanent move is about to be triggered. They report his loan contract states a £2 million (plus potential add-ons) permanent transfer is triggered if he reaches 15 league starts. The top-four competing club already paid £1 million for the initial loan move. Nonetheless, the price is beyond just a “bargain” for one of the league’s top-performing defenders
Watford Still Benefit Tremendously From Imminent Craig Dawson Departure
Watford’s centre-back depth was plentiful at the start of the season. For a Championship club to have a player they signed for £5.5 million the season prior as their fifth choice in a position is notable, to say the least. But, there was one senior centre-back even further down the depth chart than Dawson: relatively unknown Chilean Francisco Sierralta. Now, he is the Hornets’ irreplaceable first-choice.
Sierralta signed for the Hornets in September from the owned-by-the-same-family club, Udinese. The 23-year-old did not garner too much attention. He was not expected to make much of an impact – like Dawson with West Ham. Since Sierralta’s first league start, he has been nearly flawless. The Hornets’ uptick in form under Xisco Munoz is in large part thanks to the coinciding rise of Sierralta.
If Dawson was still at Vicarage Road, it is highly unlikely Sierralta would have gotten the nod when injuries forced Sierralta into the starting line-up. Dawson’s departing gave Sierralta a better chance to be called upon if necessary. And, when the necessary time came, Sierralta, the fifth choice (instead of sixth) was given the nod and earned the starting spot. For seasons to come, the Hornets know they have an extremely talented defensive option – a talent unlikely to have emerged if Dawson stayed.
Ben Wilmot Competition Relief
Another player helped by the departure of Dawson is Wilmot. The 21-year-old centre-back was a fairly consistent starter under Vladimir Ivic. For the last 12 matches, the England U21 international player has only made cameos from the bench.
Still, not having Dawson means Wilmot will face less competition in the future. He is unfortunate to not be receiving more minutes now (as Troost-Ekong emerged as Sierralta’s preferred partner). Nonetheless, Wilmot is still receiving occasional minutes and is in line for much more if injuries call for him.
No Dawson means less competition for the younger players –and too much competition would have meant a youngster such as Wilmot could understandably consider agitating for a move away. And, between Sierralta and Wilmot, the Hornets now have two young, proven centre-backs for the future.
The more direct, concrete benefit for Watford from the Dawson departure is in the financial department. Watford already received £1 million from the initial loan deal. Barring injury, Dawson is expected to play three more matches by the middle of April. At that point, the Hornets will reportedly receive a further £2 million – with the potential for further add-ons.
Dawson also earns around £40,000 per week (a little over £2 million per year). Although it is unclear the current division of his salary between the Hornets and the Hammers, it is evident his departure will save the Hornets a tremendous number in the wage department.
West Ham are indeed on the brink of signing Dawson for a price cheaper than a player performing how he has been should be available for. But, at the end of the day, the Hornets still receive much-appreciated financial relief – and more importantly, the 30-year-old leaving has opened the door for young centre-backs to take centre-stage at Vicarage Road. Watford will wish they received more for his services. Still, both clubs have won this transfer in multiple ways.