English Premier League: Why Arsenal Should Bring Clint Dempsey to the Emirates
Earlier this month, hopes among the Gunner faithful were at a high. Despite the speculation, Robin van Persie was still an Arsenal player and Alex Song had not yet claimed a spot on Barcelona's sidelines. In a matter of days, however, optimism gave way to all-too-familiar disappointment when van Persie went to the dark side, Manchester United, and Song fled to Catalonia.
To top it off, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud impressively underwhelmed in Saturday's draw with Sunderland.
One of the most frightening aspects of Saturday's game had to be the ineffectiveness of the substitutions. Without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the team was condemned to second-half cameos by the infuriatingly inconsistent duo of Aaron Ramsey and Andrey Arshavin. One can assume that Giroud will improve in front of goal as the season progresses, but his dependence on his aerial ability to score is a bit troubling—the team already struggles mightily to send in accurate high crosses.
So what now?
The return of Oxlade-Chamberlain (hopefully) next weekend and Jack Wilshere (hopefully) in a couple of months will solidify the team's midfield and wing options. Nuri Sahin, if he joins the team on loan, will offer further playmaking prowess in the center mid position. The team has plenty of cover in midfield and on the wings—even if Wilshere struggles to return to health or form. Arsene Wenger reportedly has his eye on a few young defensive midfield options.
The team's main needs are another proven goal-scorer and fullback—the latter of which will possibly not be addressed, yet again.
Arsenal needs another player to complement Podolski and Giroud as goal scoring threats, and I believe it should be Clint Dempsey.
Dempsey enjoyed one of the most successful campaigns for any midfielder in the Premier League last season. While he established himself as one of Fulham's steadiest players throughout the 2010-2011 season, his superior play last season suggested that his game is still developing. While interest from other team has been limited to speculation from Liverpool, he has maintained a desire to play Champions League football.
The argument that Dempsey is not a Champions League level talent holds very little weight—if any. Similar cases could have been made about Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen before they joined Arsenal and established themselves as the club's best center backs. The American scored 36 goals for Fulham over the past two seasons, against some of the world's elite club teams (Juventus, Chelsea). In addition, he scored as a United States international against top international teams such as Spain, Brazil, and England.
Dempsey's versatility serves as his greatest asset.
On a club level, he has succeeded immensely as a free-roaming attacking midfielder; however, for the United States, he has also played as a winger, center forward, and a 4-4-2 striker. While he would likely never project as a starting center forward for Wenger, he could play anywhere in the middle or attacking thirds for the team.
Dempsey's skill set would benefit the Gunners immensely. His scoring prowess rests largely on his composure, propensity to take risks and ability to capitalize on opportunities. A majority of Dempsey's goals last season came through broken plays inside the box, headers, runs in transition and direct free kicks.
While Arsenal struggles to complete crosses, especially with the absence of Bacary Sagna, Dempsey would provide the team with another physical, aerial presence beside Giroud. In addition, Dempsey would offer another legitimate option beside Cazorla and Podolski to fill the free-taking void left in the early post-van Persie era.
At the very least, Clint Dempsey would provide insurance against the team's usual rash of injuries and other mild catastrophes. I believe that if Arsenal did decide to take a modest £8 million leap of faith and acquire the 29-year old American, he would collaborate well with the club's other playmakers and occasionally provide instances of brilliance to complement the team's wealth of finesse and pace.
The beauty of Dempsey's play is that it doesn't necessitate good rhythm in team play. He's not going to regularly break down defenses with his passing or dribbling ability. Instead, his emergence as a Premier League star over the past couple seasons has been due to his ability to make things happen and, more importantly, navigate the ball into the back of the net.
While this is a move that will never happen, Dempsey would realize his dream to compete in the prestigious Champions League. Arsenal would get a goal-scorer who excels in the game's big moments (2007 goal vs. Liverpool to help Fulham avoid relegation, 2010 Europa League goal vs. Juventus - link above), would provide depth and would lessen the burden on the Gunners' three summer signings.
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