Liverpool Tactics: What Signing Clint Dempsey Would Mean for Reds Next Season
Liverpool made their first transfer signing under Brendan Rodgers last week with the arrival of former Roma striker Fabio Borini, and the new boss has been heavily tipped to bring in further additions to the squad over the next week or so. Fulham's Clint Dempsey is one of those on the hit-list.
What would the Craven Cottage favourite bring to Liverpool, and how would he affect the team?
Rodgers is said to want to instill a passing, patient approach to Liverpool, with ball retention key to the team's play.
Whilst in possession, constant movement, interchanging of positions and possession recycling will be the Reds' key techniques in trying to work their way through opposition defences.
Two of Dempsey's core skills would be particularly important in this instance; his first touch, and his ability to find space between defenders.
With a good first touch and control, Dempsey will be able to receive frequent passes from his teammates in tight spaces without fear of losing the ball. Whether a first-time return pass or bringing the ball under his control for a moment before laying it off, he will be more than able to cope with the demands of a possession-based approach to attack.
His movement infield from the flanks will aid him in finding areas to receive the ball between central defenders and full-backs, and between central defenders and central midfielders.
Not only that, but when picking the ball up short isn't an option, Dempsey has the vision and intelligence to pick a run behind the defence, offering a path to goal for his team.
Versatility is another important asset that the American international has.
Able to play all the way across the attacking third of the pitch, Dempsey would likely play most of his football for Liverpool on the left hand side of three forwards in a 4-3-3 (or of the three behind a central striker in a 4-2-3-1).
Despite this, he is more than able to play either behind a central striker, on the right flank or as the centre forward himself, albeit operating in a more withdrawn and creative role rather than always hanging on the shoulder of the last defender.
Dempsey would give Liverpool tactical flexibility and a depth in at least three positions that they might not otherwise have, especially with Maxi Rodriguez now having left the club.
Off the ball, Liverpool will be looking to work hard from the front, press the opposition quickly and win the ball back in a timely fashion. Dempsey's excellent attitude and apparent fearless nature means he would fit in just fine with this approach, never failing to harass a defender and deny them time on the ball.
Goals from midfield
Something Liverpool badly missed last season was a goalscoring midfielder.
With Steven Gerrard injured for long stretches, Charlie Adam misfiring and neither of the new signings Stewart Downing or Jordan Henderson exactly prolific, the Reds saw goals from the second line of attack in short supply.
Jonjo Shelvey added a couple during the season and Maxi Rodriguez pitched in too, but in general, the lamentable number of strikes from midfield is definitely an area for improvement for the Reds, with Lucas Leiva and Jay Spearing not striking at all from their deeper position.
Arguably the most direct and natural replacement for Maxi that Liverpool might find, Dempsey can provide goals in terms of both scoring and assisting from an advanced position. He scored 23 times last season for Fulham and, while that was a personal best and therefore is unlikely to be repeated, he is clearly clinical and confident in front of goal.
Age and wages
Dempsey wouldn't be on an extraordinary wage; perhaps something around £40,000 to £50,000 per week might not be too far wide of the mark. A far cry from the £80,000 being paid out to Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez, or the £90,000 still being paid to Joe Cole each week.
Would Clint Dempsey represent a good buy for Liverpool?
Whilst Fulham would be due a transfer fee for a player still under contract, the fact that Dempsey only has 12 months left to run on his current deal should lower both the asking price and the position of power that the club has to negotiate.
For a 29-year-old player, the fee should not turn out to be above £7 million. If the Cottagers are asking for more than this, Liverpool would do well to examine other targets.
Wages and positions aside, the only real question that Brendan Rodgers need ask of any potential transfer targets at this stage is: can the player improve the squad?
At this point, the answer has to be yes. Liverpool are looking lightweight in the final third, with Andy Carroll and Craig Bellamy both far from assured to be staying at the club past this transfer window.
Moving those two players out would leave Liverpool with only Luis Suarez, Downing, Cole and a handful of youngsters as options to play alongside new boy Fabio Borini. Dempsey would not only fill a gap in the squad, but provide competition for places and a skill set optimized for the type of play Rodgers is trying to implement at Anfield.
Clint Dempsey isn't such a great player that he would be the difference for Liverpool if they were aiming for the top one or two places in the Premier League or looking for the extra bit of quality to mount a Champions League challenge—but he would certainly represent a step up from what the Reds have available at the moment.
Dempsey has just completed the best season of his career, and would be ready for a challenge with a bigger club with loftier ambitions than Fulham can provide.
If the deal is financially viable for Liverpool, they could do a lot worse in this window than to make Dempsey one of Brendan Rodgers' next signings.
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