In 1991 he topped the UK charts with his hit single ‘The One and Only’ and looked set for global stardom after breaking into the notoriously difficult US top 10. The pop world was his oyster only for his career as a musician to enter a period of eternal decline as he failed to scale the same heights his iconic melody carried him to in subsequent years.
Much like the music industry, football is a domain littered with a similar breed. Each season theres always one player that jumps to the fore and becomes the undisputed flavour of the month. Suffice to say Clint Dempsey is the man who unknowingly took up that mantle after a glorious campaign with Fulham.
A 23 goal haul and talk of a switch to Arsenal capped off what has been the American’s best year in the Premier League since his arrival from New England Revolution in 2007. His stock as certainly never been higher and inevitably he wants to cash in on his solitary season of success.
It seems as if Craven Cottage is now unable to sustain Dempsey’s lofty ambitions after he declared a desire to test himself in the Champions League effectively paving the way for a move to the Emirates Stadium this summer. And one can’t blame a 29-year-old wanting to sample the splendours of Europe’s top table as he enters the peak of his career.
But there is also the thought that Dempsey has ideas way above his station in regards to his illustrious aspirations. After all this is the first time in five years that he’s broken through the barrier of mediocrity and grasped the attention of England’s elite clubs. Several players have trod down a similarly torrid path to the one that lies before the Fulham man.
His exploits on British shores have seen him become labelled as the best American to play in the top-flight. But five years down the line he’s barely been linked with a move away from SW6 until now.
Admittedly Dempsey carved out quite a niche for himself on the Thames operating in a free role that sees him filter between playing up front, behind the striker and out wide. His importance to Martin Jol has steadily risen during the last 12-months to the extent where losing him would equate to Arsenal being deprived of Robin Van Persie. To cut a long story short he’s become the Cottagers’ indispensible lynchpin.
Jol has effectively built Fulham’s strategy around getting the best out of him in the attacking third. Arguably Dempsey’s key attribute is being able to time his runs into the box with unnerving precision. More often than not he arrive at the precise second to meet a cross and hit the target. He poses a real aerial threat as well packing a punch when given the room to fire from range.
But in a bigger team, like Arsenal, Dempsey would almost certainly fall into insignificance. Hypothetically speaking should he join the Gunners a tactical shift would be required by Arsene Wenger for him to replicate the form he displayed at Fulham last season. The freedom he was granted to roam in West London would more than likely be stifled in the North as it would in at say Manchester United or Tottenham.
His competency to perform adequately in the Champions League and upper echelons of the Premier League will surely need to be questioned should he be removed from his Fulham comfort zone. In a realm where superior elegance and expertise is a standard requirement in his position, Dempsey falls short in my opinion.
His technical proficiency as a footballer doesn’t quite stand up to the levels he aspires to play at. Whilst he can run with the ball his control is often sloppy, his manoeuvrability and poise isn’t suitably refined whilst his pace is nothing to shout home about. From my point of view Dempsey would struggle to make a discernible impact in a top team. Similarly, should he be given the opportunity to rub shoulders with the cream of the continental crop, he would find it difficult to make himself stand out amongst the crowd.
On a stage where the highest quality is essential Dempsey doesn’t possess the elements to match his elevated goals. There is no doubt that he has been one of the surprise stars of the season but as he approaches his 30’s Dempsey may have left it too late to push himself towards the beautiful games peak. Besides one good season doesn’t provide enough justification for him to demand a shot in the Champions League.
Leaving Fulham to chase his exalted dreams would be an almighty error on his part. He has it made at Craven Cottage and would be foolish to give it up to chase a wild fantasy.