When Clint Dempsey joined Tottenham Hotspur on Aug. 31, there was plenty of concern about how many minutes the U.S. International would get at one of the elite clubs of the Premier League. The worry, at the time, was the former New England Revolution star may see limited opportunities in a deep squad.
In reality, the opposite has been true. Since making his first start for Spurs on Sept. 20, Dempsey has been a part of Tottenham’s starting XI for nine of the clubs 10 games through all competitions. While some other regulars have seen a rest in competitions such as the Capital One Cup and Europa League, Dempsey has not. There can be little doubt the American star has become an integral part of André Villas-Boas’ squad this season.
So, should U.S. fans be rejoicing?
Perhaps not. While it is undoubtedly a positive to see Dempsey become a key part of Tottenham’s attack, at some point, the minutes he’s accumulated over such a short period have to become a concern. Counting U.S. National Team play, Dempsey played 900 minutes in a 41 day stretch between Sept. 20 and Oct. 31.
Eighty-nine minutes into the most recent game of that stretch, a Capital One Cup match against Norwich City on Wednesday, Dempsey’s weakly hit penalty kick with a chance to tie the game was saved, sending Tottenham crashing out of the Cup with a 2-1 defeat. The saved penalty kick capped a distinctly mediocre performance for Dempsey in a rare stint as Spurs’ lone striker and sent the Twiterverse in London into hysterics, bashing the Texas native’s performance.
Was the performance as bad as some crazed critics would make it seem? Of course not, but perhaps the fact that Dempsey didn’t have his best performance shouldn’t have been a huge shock. At 29 years old, Dempsey undoubtedly needs more time to recover between matches than some of the club’s youngest players, yet he’s been getting less.
Let’s be clear, the totality of Dempsey’s 11 performances for Spurs, including his two goals — both game-winners — and one assist, have shown he is capable of being a key piece for Tottenham. Contrary to the recent explosion of criticism, one sub-par showing doesn’t change that.
But, the concern has to be there that overuse is hurting his effectiveness. Of the key healthy components to Spurs offense, Dempsey, Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale, and Aaron Lennon, Dempsey is the only player to have appeared in all 10 of Spurs games over the last 41 days. Add in internationals and Dempsey has played in 12 games — at least two more than anyone else in Spurs’ attack – at an average of one game every 3.4 days.
When it comes to minutes, only Bale, a star Welsh International, matches Dempsey with both 720 minutes for Spurs and 900 overall. Yet Bale is just 23 and has appeared in two less games, getting periods of rest at key points by sitting out both a Europa League match and Capital One Cup match.
Meanwhile, Defoe, just a few months older than Dempsey, was rested in Spurs recent loss to Norwich, and, including internationals, has played just 751 minutes, 149 less than Dempsey and two less games. Lennon, just 25 years old, has played 771 minutes, 129 less than Dempsey and three less games. For further comparison, Dempsey played just nine games over the same period of time a year ago for Fulham and the U.S.
Then, factor in travel. Bale, Dempsey’s only match for minutes, didn’t make the trip to Slovenia to face NK Maribor in their Europa League draw on Oct. 25. And while Bale, Defoe and Lennon have all made one trip off Great Britain to another European country since Sept. 20 for World Cup Qualifiers, Dempsey has had to travel across the Atlantic to Antigua and the United States.
So if Dempsey’s play took a hit on Wednesday, it probably shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. To get the most out of Dempsey, Villas-Boas might be wise to make his playing schedule a bit more moderate, like he’s done with Defoe.
Unfortunately, with Emmanuel Adebayor struggling to get and stay healthy and Moussa Dembélé out for at least the near future, Dempsey might not get that rest anytime soon.
If Villas-Boas doesn’t find the opportunity, U.S. head coach Jürgen Klinsmann would be wise to seriously consider leaving his star home for the United States’ Nov. 14 trip to Russia for a friendly. A burned out Dempsey benefits no one.
|Appearances Sept. 20 – Oct. 31|
|Capital One Cup||2(2)||164||1(0)||1||1(1)||90||0||0|
|World Cup Qual.||2(2)||180||1(1)||66||2(2)||180||1(0)||81|