Dempsey, Fulham Outclassed at Old Trafford

Clint Dempsey is having perhaps his best campaign since heading to Fulham in 2007. By one means, he’s having the best season ever by an American in England. In 2010-2011, Dempsey has tallied more goals in a season (10) than any other American in the history of the Premier League.

But this afternoon he had little influence on the outcome of Fulham’s match with Manchester United. League leaders United found two early goals (12th and 32nd) and then all-too-easily strolled through the second half. Fulham rarely troubled backup goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.

Dempsey lined up in his customary left midfield spot, deployed as an inverted winger in Fulham’s 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1. United, without the services of Wayne Rooney, countered with a 4-3-3. Fulham didn’t have any defensive answers for United’s rampaging wingers, Antonio Valencia and Nani. The latter set up both Manchester goals. The former was the beneficiary of Nani’s work on the second.

Intriguingly, the overall stats belie United’s domination. Fulham attempted and completed more passes (445/538 to 404/512).

However, before the first goal United had a 16-passes attempted advantage. The home side easily controlled the opening 10 minutes, and after their second goal, their 4-3-3 became a 4-5-1 as they sat back and invited Fulham forward.

Their counter-attacking approach explains Dempsey’s misleading passing stats.

by Guardian Chalkboards

The American, obviously, only misfired on two attempts, a  very respectable number. But few of his passes found teammates in threatening positions. United, content to defend deep in their own half, gave Fulham’s attackers plenty of time on the ball.

Dempsey should be commended for connecting with teammates with such regularity. But, as with Stuart Holden a few months ago against Stoke, Dempsey’s squad needed just a touch more quality.

Gringos, did you think Dempsey and Co. had a chance against a Rooney-less United? Were you surprised by how easily United won?

3 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Dave says:

    Although I do believe the basic passing stats are interesting, as the author demonstrated, pass attempts and completions (and possession time) do not consider the match context. A plodding team that is struggling can string together many safe passes as they try to figure out what to do.

    When I score a match, I break out the “aggressive” passes that move the ball forward or crosses delivered via the air. Also, I tabulate whether the pass led to a successful pass or shot attempt by the recipient – my attempt to determine whether a pass was delivered in a manner that allowed the recipient to do something with it (sort of a second-tier linking measure). Comparing aggressive passes that led to another pass or shot attempt can be insightful and show which team was more dangerous with its touches.

    Also (as a plea towards Opta or Stats Inc.), I would be interested to know the passes per possession and time per possession. I suspect the good teams can create pressue by linking a few agressive passes whereas less-skilled teams may be slower and take too many touches.

    • Blake Owen says:

      And Fulham was certainly struggling to put together threatening passes, which was the point. It would be more constructive to see the sequence of events following a particular passing combination, ie what percentage of successful final third passes follow a Dempsey/Zamora one-two.

      Unfortunately, those type of stats aren’t available for us plebs.

      • Dave says:

        I believe if such stats were available, it would help the American audience understand the game better (and perhaps others as well, but I won’t speak for them). MLS should take note.

        Please keep up the good work. As a late convert to the sport, I really appreciate the background education on the game and an actual discussion on tactics that is, unfortunately, too rare on broadcasts.

        And I’ve been promoted to Plebe, sweet.

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