Okay, you’re Martin Jol, Fulham manager. You’ve just left behind the land of windmills to help the cozy Cottagers of London again prove that tradition more than bank account matters, even in the British Petroleum League–sorry that BPL moniker always messes me up.
You’ve got this player on your side that has proven to every manager before you that he is Fulham’s playa.
You run a certain Dutch system, don’t know where to fit him, so you start him on the bench a little bit at the beginning of the campaign–that being 2011-2012–but quickly you realize what all your predecessors did–he’s got to be on the field.
You start playing Fulham’s playa, American Clint Dempsey, all over the field. You play him as a withdrawn forward, you play him as an incutting left-sider, then back on the right. Everywhere he plays he shows commitment, he piles up fouls that get turned into set pieces which then show on the score sheet as goals.
But, now…now you’ve got a problem on your hand.
Your target man–Bobby Zamora–is unhappy.
Unhappy with his contract, the system everything.
He’s not doing the forward work you need. One day, the crosstown Spurs come in with two gimpy-kneed centerbacks and you figure, “Ah, what the hell. Let me try Deuce up top here–at least he’ll make Ledley King run all day.”
And lo and behold it works!
Zamora and Dempsey combine with Dempsey turning centerbacks like they’re New England Patriots cornerbacks. Only you know Zamora is heading down the road to Hughes Place. No matter, maybe Ruiz or…or..”yes Dembele” can trail the play and interchange with Dempsey. My god that might just work. Heck, I’ll even through Kerim Frei on the wing to speed up our overall rate of play.
You play Dempsey up top, either in a one person set or a two and you give him license to roam.
Dempsey becomes a force up top and drops some serious goalage on the league. Clint appropriately chooses when to come back to the midfield to help out in linking, earning even more fouls as defenders trail him out wide. You know Dempsey can’t hack getting beat on with his back to the basket all season by his lonesome, so you bring in that big Russian kid from Stuttgart. And with Deuce distracting the defense you get another half dozen goals from Pogrebnyak too.
Life is good. You’re Fulham team finishes ninth in the table with a three point improvement on the previous campaign. In fact those 52 points match the output of another team interestingly enough, Liverpool that is supposed to be a step-up for London’s top American.
If you’re Jurgen Klinsmann though, life’s not as good in Attackville.
Back on the national team, Klinsmann’s got not so easy a solve with Dempsey and the offense.
Klinsmann has the US playing up the pitch and he’s got Jozy Altidore–starting to learn his trade but still tactically a work in progress–ahead of Dempsey. The Texan has much less space to operate in. He also has less field to work with and the movement around him lacks sophistication. Not to mention now he’s usually got a faster defensive midfielder stuck right to him (Yann M’Villa).
Clint Dempsey is almost trapped in the Trequartista role that Jurgen sees as ideal for him. A player who averaged almost 3.97 shots per game for Jol this campaign is getting just 2.25 for the US under Klinsmann.
Dempsey isn’t leading the line and he’s getting collapsed on like he’s Chris Paul going up against the Spurs.
Will Klinsmann move Dempsey around? Or will Klinsmann look to use Fabian Johnson, Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore to really focus on moving offball to create space?
Much of the key to the Yanks attack in World Cup qualifying would seem to resolves around Klinsmann creating opportunities for Clint.