Interesting comments from Martin Jol regarding his use of Clint Dempsey (see Hammyend.com for more).
Essentially he’s saying that Dempsey is operating as more of a classic 10, now.
This is interesting. From our unusually lofted positions high in Johnny Haynes, Toby and I spent a bit of time on Saturday wondering where everyone was supposed to be playing. Defensively it was a very clearly a 4-1-4-1, with Murphy sitting deep and the four attacking midfielders ahead.
How were these four playing, though? Frei was on the left, almost exclusively cutting in, Ruiz on the right but drifting, but what were Dempsey and Dembele doing in between? It did look a bit like an attacking diamond with Dempsey forward and Dembele deeper. Dembele is such a good footballer that he was able to carry this off easily enough, but it is harder for him to turn on the jets from a deeper position because losing the ball further back is more dangerous.
Dempsey is, of course, in rare form, and was able to make those slippery runs he’s so good at to bag a couple of neat goals. Until recently you’d argue that he’s better attacking others’ approach play from the left, but his combination work with Ruiz and Dembele in our attacking moves is increasingly impressive, so perhaps the move inside is justified.
As noted, it was instructive that once Duff came on the team seemed much more cohesive. It’s unfair on Frei to play the age card – old players have ineffective games, too – but equally there was a feeling that perhaps the opposition had his measure and that he’ll have to develop a bit more variety to be consistently threatening.
However, nice to see that Jol has the flexibility to play such an attacking lineup, which meant that even when we weren’t playing all that well, we were able to circulate the ball for long stretches. (This is something Jose Mourinho did a lot with Porto, take a rest by keeping the ball. For a certain period his players would cease all attacking ideas and merely keep the ball, allowing them to take a breather while the opposition chased shadows for a while; our technically strong players are well able to play keep-ball).
The question now will be how the team lines up against stronger opposition. If Jol can keep us tight at the back while fielding six attacking players (including Murphy, who can do everything), well who knows what’ll happen, but it certainly *sounds* interesting, doesn’t it?