Sometimes there’s a man…

I don’t care if there’s no ‘end product’. I’ve honestly never seen a footballer who’s as fun to watch as Mousa Dembele.

We sit in what I used to think of as “Paintil Corner”, the area of the Riverside where John Paintsil was most active when defending the Hammersmith End.  The thing with being that close to the action is that you lose a lot of perspective, but you do grow to appreciate the speed and nimbleness of top level football. Everything is bang-bang-bang, and the gifted players alone are able to come up with constructive solutions to messy problems.

Danny Murphy can do that thing where the ball rolls across his body. Bryan Ruiz has Chris Waddle’s ability to glide beyond a hypnotised defender on the back of no obvious deception. Dembele is extraoardinary. He reminds me of Barry Sanders or one of those great American Football running backs, his balance and acceleration being such that he’s working to different rules to everyone else. And up close you really get to see how impressive this is. He’s quick, but he’s strong and decisive as well. It’s brilliant to see him receive the ball, shift it in that da-de-da-de-gone! way of his: The Hammersmith Quickstep, gone in half a second.

He couldn’t be more different to Clint Dempsey, not least in their attitudes to goals. Dempsey’s best when he’s arriving and hitting the ball first time; Dembele almost sees it as his duty to take a few touches (and earlier in the year this was frustrating people). Outside of tackling (which we know he’s good at) I honestly can’t remember him doing anything ‘out of control’, at least not in the getting your shorts dirty sense. So while Dempsey will crash the area on the off chance, Dembele lurks, sits back, waiting to do things on his own terms. Dempsey thrives because he’s better able to interpret chaos than others; Dembele’s is a more orderly form of genius. It’s part of why they’ve become such terrific team-mates.

Fulham have cobbled together an attacking unit that can beat you in a number of ways. It’s a work in progress and still needs pace somewhere (can we have Valencia, Sir Alex?) but the parts in this machine are about as good as we can hope for. Losing Dembele and Dempsey in one summer would be a huge shame. I don’t doubt that we could replace them to the extent that we could finish top 10 again, but these two are unusual, and were the league not so very competitive, could easily lead Fulham to something strange.

It won’t happen, but I hope both go to clubs where they’ll play regularly and have a chance to thrive. Dempsey feels perhaps a year late on this; Dembele perhaps a year early, but both will command big money. We’re not going to say no, I don’t imagine.


Richard Allen founded Craven Cottage Newsround in 2006. This is him at a wedding last year.

4 thoughts on “Sometimes there’s a man…

  1. Good stuff there, including on contrasting attitudes to the off-chance. Someone could do worse than grab them as a job lot, couldn’t they.

    I didn’t find Mousa nearly such “fun to watch” until Jol redeployed him, since when it’s all started to make sense. He stepped up another gear too at the very end of the season, by several times threatening the goal in earnest. If that second-half post-thumper at Spurs is a sign of things to come, then he becomes even more of a hot property.

  2. I find much to agree with here. I bought one jersey in the last couple years and it was this year’s Dembele jersey.

    The flow of the game seems to change every time he gets the ball. He just so effortlessly glides around world class players like they aren’t there. The way he moves with the ball is poetic, he has a trademark style that’s all his. He also almost never loses the ball–he holds it so well, pivots, turns, always finds his way out of trouble. I keep coming back to the Arsenal game where not only did Moussa (I believe there are 2 ‘s’) have the fanciest feet on the pitch–yeah, take that RVP–he was bossing Song around in the midfield! Nobody bosses Song around and here was Moussa owning him. Wow.

    Yeah, I keep waiting for him to pop up more in the traditional stats, I keep waiting for him to show up one day and net a hat trick, but in the meantime he’s something to behold outside all of that. A real joy. Along with Dempsey and Messi, my favorite player to watch.

  3. It took a little while to get going, but a big portion of Dembele’s game where he thrived in this season was getting the ball from the back four. And this for a CF!

    Rather than having Diarra hang back and Murphy instigate our offense and receive the ball from Hangeland/Hughes; it was always Dembele. This would free Diarra to make his bombing runs up the field (culminating in that goal at Bolton) and let Murphy occupy space around the midfield circle to then give it back to Dembele or kick it out to Ruiz or Duff.

  4. I am disappointed we are not going to get one season out of him when he is at the peak of his career (next season would have been it).

    When he leaves, I bet there is a widespread love in for him by journalists, fans and the media in general.

    This boy is going to be a star, if I had to choose a place for him to go it would be Manchester United. Fergie would appreciate him and he would have a good chance of winning things. Unfortunately, it looks like he will be off to Spurs for ‘Arry to misuse him.

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