Clint Dempsey scored his 6th goal of the season (5 in the EPL and 1 in the Carling Cup) this Saturday against Birmingham. He’s well on his way of overhauling his single season scoring record in all club competitions of 8 (2008-09 season) and the season is only a third done.
Why the sudden spurt of goals from the attacking midfielder? It’s because, due to the injuries to Fulham’s forwards, Mark Hughes has had to use Dempsey as the other striker in his 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 formations, and the Deuce abides.
5 of his 6 goals have come from the forward position. Not only is he banging them in the net with quite a regularity, but he is also in just about every attacking move that Fulham is involved in.
Gone are the days of Dempsey being absent for large parts of the game (certainly for country, but was accused of this at Fulham as well). In this last game, he (and Eddie Johnson) both had chances to acquire all three points for Fulham, but their efforts went astray. Fulham fans have noticed as one can see from this fans match day recap “Murphy had an OK match, whilst Dempsey worked his socks off as always.”
Now it’s time for Bob Bradley to take note as well.
Dempsey’s strike partners at Fulham this season, have not been of the big hulking variety or that of the traditional English center forward. They’ve been either Diomansy Kamara, Andrew Johnson, Moussa Dembele (all fast) and off the bench compatriot Eddie Johnson. With the exception of Eddie Johnson, Dempsey has been taller and heavier than the others, which leads me to believe that he could very well lead the line for the USMNT.
An excellent article by Neil W. Blackmon talks about the duality of Clint Dempsey. How he disappears for country, when for club he is so immense, and I for one agree with all his points. The article is broken up into two parts and the second one hasn’t come out yet, but I think it’s time for Bradley to make Deuce the focal point of the USMNT attack.
This doesn’t mean make him the lone striker necessarily, though I could see him up top with Donovan just behind him, backed up by Edu, Holden, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley. As Blackmon suggests at the end of part one of his well written article, that maybe Bradley senior should follow in Hodgson and Hughes’s strategy for getting the best out of Dempsey.
In the past year, the USMNT have mainly used a combination of Altidore, Johnson, Findley, Buddle and Gomez as their forwards in Bradley’s preferred 4-4-2 formation. This has yielded satisfactory results at best, but the main attack on the USMNT (aside from conceding early goals) has been their lack of firepower.
When teams play with two strikers, either as two up front or with one withdrawn, they often go with big/tall striker who can knock down/control the ball for their partner (often a speedy goal poacher). This can be effective to a point (Rooney/Heskey, Heskey/Owen, Carrol/Davies come to mind). Bradley seems to try this strategy with Altidore and another striker, but after a year or so of tinkering it hasn’t produced.
Once again, the age old adage that size doesn’t matter, but its how you use it that counts, is correct. Look at Messi/Villa, Villa/Torres, Sneijder/Van Persie, Forlan/Suarez, etc… These are all partnerships that combine skill and speed versus height and speed/skill etc… often with the clubs or countries two best attacking players. I think it’s time for Bradley to use Dempsey and Donovan as the two strikers.
Sure they will both be 31 and 32 respectively in 2014, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be very effective. Donovan will have a lost a step or two, but he will still be faster than most. Dempsey as we are seeing, is getting better with age and will be a perfect compliment to Donovan’s speed and ball control. With Mo Edu, Holden, Jones and Bradley behind them, there is enough creativity, youth and skill to cover for what the front of have lost.
Personally, I feel this should have been used in South Africa, but hindsight is 20/20. At the very least Bradley should try and partner someone as Dempsey’s strike partner. He has three years to find a winning combination, but what is certain is that making Dempsey the focal point of an attack will bring out for country, the same Deuce that plays for club.