Replacing Rafael van der Vaart was never going to be an easy task – just ask Clint Dempsey. The American arrived at Tottenham Hotspur over the summer, despite reports suggesting that Premier League rivals Liverpool were closing in on his signature.
His performances, it has to be said, have failed to live up to expectations. At Fulham, Dempsey was regularly a threat from midfield, often cutting in from the left to terrorise the opposition backline and it was no shock to see the 29-year-old net an impressive 23 goals for the Cottagers last season.
However, his displays for Tottenham Hotspur thus far have left a lot to be desired. In 16 appearances for the North London side, he has scored just twice – both proving to be decisive goals in the respective wins over Manchester United and Southampton.
As a result, fans of the club have been quick to jump on his back despite the fact Dempsey hadn’t mustered a full pre-season prior to his deadline day move to White Hart Lane. Striking to secure a move away from Craven Cottage wasn’t ideal and it further hampered his initial impact at Tottenham Hotspur.
Yet, the expectation of supporters to hit the ground running was monumental and, as a result, many took to Twitter to voice their concerns with Dempsey. During the 3-1 win over West Ham United, however, the Spurs faithful were treated to a glimpse of the capabilities of the 29-year-old.
Setting up Gareth Bale’s effort in stunning fashion before playing into Aaron Lennon to sprint through to tap across goal for Jermain Defoe’s second was exactly what head coach Andre Villas-Boas and the fans have been expecting.
You only have to look at his stats from the encounter to garner how much of an attacking influence he was. Completing 40 of his 44 passes, a completion rate of 91%, is a mightily impressive stat, regardless of the opposition. On top of that, 18 of his 21 passes were within the attacking third, two of which led to the aforementioned goals.
Throw in his stunning strike that rattled the crossbar and it saw Dempsey come close to netting one for himself and it would’ve rounded off an impressive afternoon for ‘Deuce’. However, there are those that remain apprehensive about the midfielder and you can understand the concerns.
It took 15 appearances for Dempsey to really showcase his worth, but now he needs to keep it up. It’s all well and good performing in one big game against a London rival, ala Jermaine Jenas against Arsenal, but if he fails to keep it up, the pressure will again mount on the shoulders of the American.
Nevertheless, it’s important to give him time to settle into his new surroundings, something the player himself has admitted he is still doing. Granted, Dempsey possesses Premier League experience in abundance, having been part of the Fulham set up for four-and-a-half years.
But, under a new manager with new ideas it’s always going to take longer than expected for some players to perform to their full capabilities. Under Villas-Boas, Dempsey is also operating in an unfamiliar role.
As mentioned, with Fulham the midfielder would often cut in front the left wing. Villas-Boas has attempted to play Dempsey in a similar role during the 2-1 win over Queen’s Park Rangers earlier this season.
Yet, with Bale playing left-back, there was no natural cover for the Welshman, who has all but converted to winger. At half-time, the Spurs head coach made the call to drag Gylfi Sigurdsson off and move Dempsey back into the centre, allowing Bale and Jan Vertonghen to link up exceptionally on the left.
Having to adjust his game to suit the needs of the boss isn’t going to work overnight, while the number 10 role can be a problematic one. If you perform admirably, fans adore you. If not, they’re equally as quick to criticise.
Hopefully the performance against West Ham United was the first of many from Dempsey. He rightfully deserves the plaudits for his display in the win, along with the likes of Kyle Walker, Defoe and Bale. Maybe the equally impressive Michael Dawson should elbow him in training more often.