Coming off a 2011-12 campaign which saw him finish the season with 23 goals in all competitions, including finishing fourth in English Premier League scoring behind only Robin van Persie, Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney, expectations for Clint Dempsey’s career were at an all-time high.
Then, this past summer, Dempsey was forced to endure an awful transfer mess, being tapped up by Liverpool despite the fact that their interest appeared to never be sincere. After waiting the entire summer to make an offer, Liverpool came through at the last minute with an insulting offer of only £3 million.
Since coming to Tottenham, Dempsey has scored eight goals and racked up four assists, a pretty far cry from his 23-goal performance with Fulham last season. However, Dempsey has done well considering the number of hurdles he has had to leap over since making the move.
When Dempsey first arrived at Tottenham, he was not fully match fit after being exiled from training with the first team at Fulham. He was also settling into a new club with new teammates and a new manager.
While Dempsey had had to deal with plenty of new managers at Fulham, five since arriving at the club in 2006, the fact that Tottenham’s manager, Andre Villas-Boas, had just come from a spectacular failure the season before at Chelsea heaped additional pressure on everyone involved at the club.
The team also did not settle on a formation early in the season, eventually moving from a 4-2-3-1 to a more traditional 4-4-2 and, since then, back and forth between the two.
Tottenham also struggled to find a rhythm early, going 7-6-6 in the first three months of the season in all competitions. In those early games, it was evident that Tottenham was missing the playmaking abilities of Rafael van der Vaart, who had left the team for Hamburger SV on deadline day.
Mousa Dembele, the playmaking midfielder who had also come to Tottenham from Fulham with Dempsey, missed six weeks of those first three months recovering from an injury. And Dempsey, for his part, often did not look on the same page as his teammates.
Whether lauded or laughed at, a big part of Dempsey’s goal-scoring prowess is based off of his poaching ability. Some players are praised for their ability to “be in the right place at the time,” but sometimes poacher’s goals are dismissed by fans as simply being tap-ins.
When Dempsey was at Fulham, he had great providers in Dembele, Bryan Ruiz and Damien Duff. At Tottenham, many of the player’s abilities are geared more towards the individual effort rather than combination play.
One can hardly fault a player like Gareth Bale, who is a world-class goalscorer, for being selfish in the box, but it can also be maddeningly frustrating to watch players like Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker dribble themselves into the corner rather than whip services across the face of goal.
Still, Dempsey was able to make an impact at Tottenham in the early going, despite the lack of flow and service. He picked up the game-winning goal against Manchester United in September and the game-tying goal against United in stoppage time in their match in January. In total, Tottenham took four points off United this season—crucial points as Spurs chase the final Champions League place with five games to go.
Between regaining his fitness, a troublesome calf injury and battling players like Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Jermaine Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor for playing time, Dempsey has also seen significantly less minutes this season while playing for Spurs. Last year at Fulham, where Dempsey was an almost automatic starter, Dempsey played a total of 4,098 minutes. This year, at Tottenham, Dempsey has played 2,552 minutes, 62 percent of his total with the Cottagers.
Over the last two games, Dempsey has started to look increasingly settled at Spurs—to be expected this late in the season. With Dempsey now fully fit again and injuries to Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale and Jermaine Defoe, there has been an increased reliance on Dempsey over the past couple of weeks and Dempsey has delivered.
First, against Basel in the Europa League two weeks ago, Dempsey scored a dramatic double with two very well taken goals. Unfortunately for Tottenham, they lost to Basel in penalties.
Then, last week against Manchester City, in a crucial game for Tottenham’s Champions League hopes, Dempsey scored the 75th-minute equalizer to spark Spurs comeback late in the game.
Fittingly, the man who wanted out of Fulham because he wants to play Champions League football, may have just helped Spurs pick up the points they’ll need to get there.
With five games to go, it will be an exciting battle between Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham for third and fourth place, and Clint Dempsey figures to be a big part of the fight ahead.
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