If ever there was a good barometer for a player’s general respect in this league, perhaps you need to look no further than the fall out from Clint Dempsey’s summer transfer from Fulham to Tottenham Hotspur.

While the American had been linked with a move away from Craven Cottage this past summer, neither Dempsey, his new manager Andre Villas-Boas nor the associated media, appeared to give away any inkling that a move to White Hart Lane was ever in the offing. His subsequent deadline day move to N17 felt something of a marriage of convenience, rather than a victorious end to a hard fought transfer chase.

But with 17 league goals to his name last season, an imperious work rate and an ability to perform consistently in a number of positions, fans received Dempsey’s signature with a warmth that belied his somewhat muted arrival. And from what we’ve seen so far, the American has done exactly what he says on the tin.

Since making his debut for the Lilywhites in the 3-1 win away to Reading, Dempsey, has hustled, harried and even buried the winner for Spurs’ first win at Manchester United in 23 years. But although he’s performed adequately enough since his arrival, is he really a player that fits the needs of this Tottenham Hotspur team?

Because as efficient and as effective as Dempsey may be, it still feels difficult to see where he really fits in within the confines of how Andre Villas-Boas wishes to play. The reality, as harsh as it may seem, was that Dempsey was brought in, as something of a back up to a multitude of other deals that Tottenham didn’t manage to complete on time. The lack of touted speculation and the deadline day timing of the deal, are no coincidence.

And it shows, too. You can’t shake the feeling that Dempsey was brought in the hope that he’d click into the AVB jigsaw, rather than looking at the necessary facts. Because if you were going to construct a shortlist at the beginning of the window of players that would effectively play in the Portuguese’s 4-2-3-1 set-up, the chances are that Dempsey probably wouldn’t be making it very high up. Yet nonetheless, now he’s here, Villas-Boas is making a very good go at trying to eek out the best from him.

The problem with a player like Dempsey, is that it seems extremely cynical to critique a player who hasn’t been playing all that badly. Of course, the American turned in arguably his worst performance since his time at White Hart Lane in the 4-2 defeat to Chelsea. But then again, that statement rings true for a vast majority of his Spurs teammates as well.

Indeed, judging him after five games is hardly offering a fair representation within a team that is still by virtue, still in transition, although watching Dempsey certainly offers some interesting evaluations. He’s been predominantly deployed in the central position of Villas-Boas’ attacking three, behind the lone front man, which has so far been Jermain Defoe. And he’s not done too badly at all.

Keen to join in the build up play with a few neat, if not frenetic touches, Dempsey’s looked an intelligent player since arriving in N17. His solitary goal in a Tottenham shirt may well be the easiest he puts away all season, but he showed a decent bit of nous to carry on his run and take the gamble when Bale took his shot for the third goal at Old Trafford. You don’t get 17 Premier League goals in one ter without a degree of footballing intellect.

Although it feels significant that what was arguably Dempsey’s best personal showing in a Spurs shirt so far, came in the 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers last month. After a lackadaisical first 45 against Mark Hughes’s side, Andre Villas-Boas switched his side to a 4-4-2, with Dempsey supporting Jermain Defoe and the difference in quality was palpable. Dempsey looked dangerous, offering a genuine goal threat and wielding what felt like far more of an influence than what we’ve seen in his other outings so far.

The distinct problem is of course, that Andre Villas-Boas doesn’t set his team out in a way designed to suit Dempsey. Spurs’ new number two might have scored a lot of goals for Fulham last season, but it’s worth noting that Martin Jol focused his side’s play around him. The American is by no means a poor choice in the central role of Villas-Boas’ attacking unit, but he his game isn’t hugely suited to playing that role, either.

An intelligent player he may be, but he’s not someone who you can perhaps look to directing the play through as an attacking focal point. Again, short, sharp touches, clever late runs into the box and neat attacking bursts are Dempsey’s game. Play to these strengths and you can milk goals out of him. But looking to Dempsey to create the link between the frontman and the rest of the side is asking a lot and although he’s performing the job admirably, it doesn’t feel organic. At home especially, this certainly isn’t helping to the side’s sometimes-labored efforts going forward.

Playing in that role with Defoe in front of you can’t be particularly easy and despite his goal scoring prowess, the more esteemed all round play of Emmanuel Adebayor, could offer a better foil for Dempsey. He has time on his side to grow into his new position.

Clint Dempsey is a proven commodity in the Premier League and his versatility and reliability, are real assets to Andre Villas-Boas; he gives the Portuguese a number of options and an element of variety in the final third.

But for however admirable his merits are and for however effective he may prove to be, you can’t shake the feeling that he’s a component of compromise, as opposed to one of change.

How do you feel about Clint Dempsey’s place in this Tottenham side? The right man for the position or an awkward piece in the jigsaw? Let me know what you think on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus to talk all things Tottenham. 

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  • pablodan
    1 year ago

    I don’t know what games you have been watching, but Dempsey looks out of his depth so far this season. To complete an occasional square pass and trot around looking casual and cool is NOT good enough! Didn’t you notice that non of the so called other big four ever considered signing him. Shape up or ship out! Else for Adebayor being a better foil for him…please! Then who will score? If you haven’t noticed he is afraid to score….oops I mean to miss! That’s why he doesn’t shoot or make runs into the box. He considers himself a setup man and even said so. We need another goal scorer. Ade is NOT the answer! Dempsey is NOT either.

    Reply
    • Sam Antrobus
      1 year ago

      Pablodan, I think the fact that nowhere within AVB’s 4-2-3-1 set-up particularly suits him, as I mentioned in the article, might be something of a perennial issue during his time at the club. Subsequently, it’s always going to be difficult to judge him fairly. I think he needs to given a fair chance, and he’s not played anywhere near enough games to constitute that yet. But in the way the manager wants to play, I’m not sure he is necessarily cut out for the job. Gives us other options though.

      Disagree with you about Adebayor, but agreed that Dempsey might not get too many for us in his current guise. Play him along side someone or just behind a frontman and it could be a different story. But he is nowhere near cut out to play up front on his own for us and I do think by technicality, Spurs still only have two out-and-out strikers. I think Ade just needs game time though. We shall see.

      Reply
    • Anthony
      1 year ago

      Dempsey missed preseason and is just returning to match fitness and blending into a new system with new teammates. he’ll be fine. he’s the premier league’s top midfield scorer since 2010.

      Reply
  • tony
    1 year ago

    agree with above.24 goals for fulham and he doesnt look like he can cut it at spurs.another mystery player.comes with a great reputation.loses it at spurs.spurs is the “bermuda triangle”for some players

    Reply
  • DOC
    1 year ago

    As a Fulham fan I was royally fecked off losing Demps. However, I do get some relief to know he’s playing shite for you lot. Saying there is a “Bermuda Triangle” at Spurs with good players that have lost there mojo is one thing, it could also be about some players leaving FFC and losing their spark…Saha, Steed and prehaps Dempsey? Dembele is the obvious exception to the rule here. But don’t get too excited. He is that good I can’t image he’ll stay with your club. Barcelona or Real Madrid will come knocking pretty soon.

    Reply
  • Jonnoj
    1 year ago

    Just a couple of comments from a Fulham fan that might interest you.
    It’s not true that Jol based the FCC team around Clint, that would be more true of Moussa who Jolmconverted to central midfield and then based the tactics around that.
    Dempsey played like an inside left for us not quite left wing but not central either. So in a 4-2-3-1 based on his Fulham position he’d be on the left of the three. It’s from there he scored most of his goals.

    Reply
  • Jon
    1 year ago

    The Dempsey buy was surely a panic after targets fell through. He was seen as a quick fix and without being a stand out performer, he seems to be a squad player, competent enough to cover and do a job when called upon without really stakeing a proper claim as such for a first team space? However he, like the team are still in a transitional period so he may still be settling in with much more to offer?
    I think we missed out on a few targets in the summer without suitably replacing VDV. I feel Dempsey can offer multiple cover for various positions, I personally dont think sigurdsson fits the AVB style?

    Reply
  • Anthony
    1 year ago

    to those suggesting that dempsey isn’t going to cut it… he missed preseason so not only has he had to blend into a new system with new teammates but he has had to do it while trying to get match fit. after another 6 or 8 weeks feel free to make a judgment, but it makes no sense to make assumptions based on a player who has been literally months behind everyone else. he’s the premierships top midfield scorer since 2010 and having followed him closely at fulham i can say that he’s a very complete player. i remember when everyone was saying modric wasn’t good enough either… people are way too quick to write off players and do so with no contextual understanding. very few players in the world could jump into a new team lacking match fitness and perform their best. be patient

    Reply
    • Romano
      1 year ago

      I watched nearly all of Fulham’s games last year so I can say Dempsey is not on his game with the Spurs. For whatever reason I don’t see that he is involved in the final third. He’s not having problems scoring on the US national team. He has been solid with Fulham last term. He needs to settle in with his new team and team mates. I think it’s just a matter of getting passes in the final third. I feel the entire team is still adjusting to AVB’s style. I like Sigurdsson defense but think Dempsey has better passing skills. Defoe and Lennon seem to force shots while in the box instead of passing to open teammates. With all the injuries it will be interesting to see what it will be like with a full squad and what the rotation finally ends up to be.

      Reply
  • toby lerone
    1 year ago

    Maybe Dempsey has not been a rousing success so far but Sigurdsson is the real let down..a poor mans Van Der Vaart, wasteful in possession and in front of goal,not good enough at the moment.

    Reply
  • Pwyll
    1 year ago

    The more I watch, the more I feel Dempsey is not going to work out with Spurs. Right now, he’s a man without a position.
    He’s not a no. 10. He’s a finisher not a creator, and does his best creation when he has space to read a defense. He could work as a winger opposite Bale. He would benefit from the space and be more of a threat in the air, but he lacks the speed which makes Lennon dangerous.

    Reply

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