New England Soccer Today

Time for a Rest?

Is Clint Dempsey being overused by Spurs?. (Photo: Tottenham Hotspur)

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
Dempsey Defoe Bale Lennon
Tottenham Apps. Mins. Apps. Mins. Apps. Mins. Apps. Mins.
Premier League 5(5) 400 5(5) 414 5(5) 450 5(5) 446
Europa Leage 3(2) 156 3(3) 270 2(2) 180 3(3) 244
Capital One Cup 2(2) 164 1(0) 1 1(1) 90 0 0
Total Club 10(9) 720 9(8) 685 8(8) 720 8(8) 690
World Cup Qual. 2(2) 180 1(1) 66 2(2) 180 1(0) 81
Total 12(11) 900 10(9) 751 10(10) 900 9(8) 771


  1. Jamie

    November 3, 2012 at 5:35 am

    It wasn’t just Wednesday where he didn’t impress. Apart from two 1 yard tap-ins, he has been completely ineffective in every game in a Spurs shirt.

    • Sean Donahue

      November 3, 2012 at 10:10 am

      I see you’re ignoring his diving header that would have won the game against Lazio if not incorrectly disallowed, his set-up of Aaron Lennon’s lone goal this season, his goal against QPR disallowed because of Defoe’s offside, the nice assist he should’ve had if Defoe hadn’t wasted it (and also the PK he probably should’ve earned) against Panathinaikos, countless shots that have forced good saves, etc. Yes, he’s wasted some chances, particularly on headers, that he should have converted, but to say he’s been “completely ineffective in every game in a Spurs shirt” makes me have to believe you’ve just been looking at the box scores and not watching the games.

      • Phil

        November 3, 2012 at 10:47 am

        I’m torn on Dempsey so far.

        Sean is right he is unlucky to not have scored more/ earn some penalties. Having said that when hes not in those opportunities hes not adding anything to the team. He doesn’t put in the effort others seem to. His passing is lacking and he doesn’t seem to have the ability to drive forwards. If he wasn’t scoring he wouldn’t be playing like why Defoe has been overlooked for years.

        Even Defoe who has been guilty of adding little to the team when he’s not scoring has done better this year than ever before.

        In short I think I’d like to see him rested because I’d like to see others given the chance.

        I’d like to see Adebayor play just behind Defoe to help bring in more goals.

        When Dembele and Parker are back I envision Dempsey could be dropped for some games if his play continues like this with Dembele playing where Dempsey is.

        I hope he will come good just like Sigurdsson who’s in a similar position.

        • Sean Donahue

          November 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm

          I think you bring up a fair point about effort and honestly I think it’s dropped progressively since he joined the team. Is that a result of getting too comfortable or fatigue from so many minutes? I’d lead towards the latter, but either way a game off could do him some good.

          I said before the season I didn’t think Defoe worked as the lone striker, and I still don’t. If Spurs are going to play one up top with Dempsey behind, it needs to be someone who can hold up the ball.

  2. Don

    November 4, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    I think Ronaldo has played every game since starting for Manchester United except on those few occasions he was injured.

    • Sean Donahue

      November 4, 2012 at 7:37 pm

      Maybe every league game, but just four days ago he wasn’t even in the squad for their Copa del Rey match…

  3. JE

    November 4, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I’ve watched every Dempsey performance this season (club and USMNT). I agree with Sean, he’s tired. His fatigue seems to be both physical and psychological. Clint has stepped into the limelight this season and has more pressure upon him than many other players, in any league. Couple that with the immense amount of pressure put upon AVB and trouble is bound to manifest itself. This is going to be a tough campaign for Spurs and if it comes crashing down, Deuce will find himself in the eye of the storm.

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