An American Mid in Europe: Dempsey’s Debut

FFG is reviving our ‘American Midfielder in England’ feature, though with an added wrinkle. During the 12-13 European season, we’ll examine gringo midfielders plying their trade across Europe. We start with the new Spurs man, Clint Dempsey.

Clint Dempsey’s debut for Tottenham couldn’t have come in a more comfortable situation. The Texan entered the match in the 78th with Spurs already up 3 goals to none. Despite the easy nature of the win for Spurs, the game demonstrated how Dempsey might fit into manager Andres Villas-Boas’ plans.

Dempsey’s Familiar Positioning

Dempsey’s entrance couldn’t have come in a more familiar spot on the field. With Tottenham in a 4-2-3-1 for the entire match, Dempsey flitted between his two usual positions, central attacking mid and inverted left-winger. These were the two areas of the pitch which he commonly frequented for Fulham. And, as with his previous London-based club, Dempsey’s roaming was made possible by an understanding with fellow midfielder Moussa Dembele, who also made the switch to Tottenham in August.

Dembele and Dempsey both possess positional flexibility, and the symbiosis they developed at Fulham was on display against Reading. When Dempsey cheated inside, Dembele scampered wide, and vice versa. Spurs fans must be giddy at the sight of two new signings intimately comfortable with each other. Their almost innate understanding is Dempsey’s best shot at consistent playing time.

Dembele at Center Midfield

Dempsey’s former Fulham teammate actually started the match as one of the holding midfielders, albeit as the holder with license to move forward. Dembele’s presence in a deeper-than-usual position could potentially signal another way for Villas-Boas to incorporate Dempsey and Dembele together. Dempsey could easily slot in front of Dembele as a trequartista, which would again allow the two to link with ease.

The use of Dembele as one of the two holders is only likely to happen against inferior opposition, and when Scott Parker returns from injury, Dembele will probably move up the pitch. Still, Dembele’s positioning at the beginning of the match is another interesting hint at how Dempsey could feature with the club.

Bale Making Room for Dempsey?

When Dempsey first signed with Tottenham, our first thought was, ‘How will he fit in with their traditional wingers?’ Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, both conventional flankers, are two of Spurs’ most dangerous weapons, and one or the other would have to make way for Villas-Boas to make full use of Dempsey. Given Dempsey’s preference for coming in from the left, Bale would be the player most likely to make way.

Intriguingly, Bale – who has made his mark running directly at fullbacks on the left flank – drifted inside regularly against Reading. Bale abandoning his touchline has not, to say the least, been a frequent sight for Spurs fans. If this is a new facet to his game (and not merely an aberration due to Reading’s overwhelmed defenders) it could signal a way for Dempsey and Bale to inhabit the pitch at the same time.

Gringos, did you catch the match? What do you think of Dempsey’s chances for finding consistent playing time with Tottenham?

One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Ben says:

    I thought it was a positive, if not generous, nod from AVB to get Deuce a few minutes on essentially his first game in the squad. Although he came on for Bale, which on the surface just affirms the fear that he is Bale’s “backup,” I have the sense he’ll configure the formation to have them both out there at once. After all, he wants goals, right? There doesn’t seem to be much hope of inverting Bale on the right so that Dempsey can play left, so I’m imagining Dempsey withdrawing more centrally, say behind a Defoe or Adebayor. Excited to see the season play out.

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