Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A touch of class brings hope

Clint Dempsey's muted impact at White Hart Lane this season has been sobering for all US soccer followers.

After 23 goals in 45 games for Fulham last campaign, a modest return of 2 in 17 games for Tottenham has been stunning for the wrong reasons. The best American player the biggest let-down of the season?

After the Stars and Stripes were packed away at Reading and 'Fulhamerica' dissolved, it is nice to see YAs at Aston Villa and Stoke getting playing time.

T-Ho and Brad Friedel remain stellar, but Deuce as the lone attacking ace remains the spiritual American flagbearer in the Premier League.

Leaving Fulham was a bit of a mess in the end as he was benched for seeking a move while Liverpool ummed and erred before being outbid by Tottenham and Villa, whose bid Dempsey rejected. Missing Spurs' first three games while in transfer limbo did not help.

"Every team is different and there's a period of adjustment, " he said this week. "I didn't have a pre-season at all, so I'm trying to play catch-up a little bit."

After honing his left side/roving role at Craven Cottage, Deuce has had to quickly learn a new language of supporting a central striker in an advanced central berth at Spurs, slotted in behind either Emmanuel Adebayor or Jermain Defoe in the way Rafael Van der Vaart played under Harry Redknapp. Deuce has not exactly taken to it like a duck to water.

"I've been frustrated at not really getting on the ball or affecting games, " he admitted, because "I'm better when I can go on the half-turn and face my opponents. I'm traditionally used to playing in a 4-4-2 where I'm the guy on the left."

But in that slot Spurs already have the outstanding Gareth Bale, whose express train surges through opposition backlines make him an automatic first choice. Yet if Dempsey can link up with the Welsh wizard as well as he did on Saturday, then Tottenham could be onto something. The two have not looked as telepathic this season as they did against West Ham.

Not only was Deuce's chip for Bale's goal a slice of exquisite technique, Bale equally back-heeled skilfully to the Texan in the first half to let him get a shot off and Deuce was instrumental in Tottenham's third, his quick feet releasing Aaron Lennon who squared for Defoe to score. And he hit the bar; a fine day at the office.

"We have two very direct wingers and it's about knowing when to get close to them, " Dempsey explained, "or give them space to take on their man and try to get on the end of the cross...I need to get on the ball and make the right movements."

A wholly different playing system to Fulham's then. He is certainly trying to adapt and has the support of Andre Villas-Boas, with whom he has sat down to watch videos and discussed what he needs to do in future in order to make more of an impact.

His black eye is as a result of colliding with Michael Dawson while apparently simulating West Ham aerial attacks in training. It's not the first time Clint has looked like Jack Dempsey and he shares his namesake's fighting instinct to come out on top.

Tottenham lie seventh, but a rejuvenated Dempsey, if not quite the key player he was at Fulham, could still lift them back up to challenging for that Champions League place they crave. A new and improved Deuce was on show in London on Saturday, so watch this space.

-Sean O'Conor


hipvictor said...

This is a great post. So much more insightful and better researched than all the stuff I've been reading—and thinking—about the Dempsey situation. Thanks.

UnitedDemon said...

Hopefully, he can learn the role and translate it to the national team.