Clint Dempsey is a really good footballer. He contributes goals from midfield, defends well, works hard, and is a threat from set pieces. He can also deliver the unexpected, although he attempts the unexpected so often that eventually the unexpected is only unexpected in its success. From his position on the left he works well with Paul Konchesky, Zoltan Gera and Bobby Zamora, and is a real asset to the team. Furthermore, if you think about the squad’s saleable assets, it pretty much comes down to him and Hangeland. Despite this, it looks like Dempsey is on the outside looking in again.
Chris Coleman brought him over from the US and wouldn’t play him. Lawrie Sanchez did play him (with some success), but then he was in and out of the side under Roy in the Great Escape, then out of the side at the start of the season after that. At this point Gera was playing every week and not cutting it, while an increasingly irate Dempsey was coming on as sub and playing well. Then he scored that bombastic late equaliser at Portsmouth and was in the team from then on. Then last season he injured himself at Blackburn at a point where he was playing very well (hitting the bar with a bicycle kick in that very game), Simon Davies came in and played well, and Dempsey was again unable to get back into the side and ended up playing centre-forward in the Europa League final.
Then on Saturday he got the start in Mark Hughes’ first game, made way for Gera and watched the latter (why do people refer to players as “the [nationality]”? – “The Hungarian” sounds really weird doesn’t it? Only in football. If I wrote a report describing a research respondent as “The Londoner” people would wonder what I was on about) score a hat-trick.
So yes, here he is, arguably one of our best players, and again it looks like he’s going to struggle to get a regular game. You could forgive him for feeling angry about this.
Some numbers. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Anyway:
Games Clint has not started in versus those he has started in over the last two seasons:
|No Clint||21 games (1.1. points per game)|
|Result as expected||12||57%|
|Result not as expected, Fulham do well||5||24%|
|Result not as expected, Fulham disappointed||4||19%|
|Clint starts||55 games (1.4 points per game)|
|Result as expected||28||51%|
|Result not as expected, Fulham do well||21||38%|
|Result not as expected, Fulham disappointed||6||11%|
In the above I have taken Ladbrokes’ predicted outcome as the ‘expected’ result. Anything other than the predicted outcome is ‘unexpected’.
I don’t know if there’s something there or not, but it does tend to suggest that the famed Dempsey fire is contributing *something*.
It’s also worth noting that he’s started in most of the “big upsets” we’ve seen in recent times, matches in which we’ve really bucked the odds:
All of which suggests to me that we need to find a way to keep this man in the side.
I don’t know how you do it though: Duff has to play, Davies is a terrific footballer, Gera is undroppable. Murphy might be the player at risk, but I can’t see anyone else in the side who can do that job. What do you do? I can’t find a single configuration that allows all of these players to co-exist in a starting XI.
(Obviously Mark Hughes may very well decide that Dempsey is a player he wants to feature, rendering all of the above somewhat moot, but there we go).