Is Clint Dempsey worthy of being the next Van der Vaart?


The Tottenham summer signing has struggled to make an impact since joining the North London club, despite accumulating two goals and an assist in 640 minutes played for Spurs.

Whilst the 29-year-old blew people away with his impressive finishing ability whilst at Craven Cottage, the Tottenham fans have been left thinking, “Is this really our replacement of Rafael Van der Vaart?”

Of course the two differ immensely in quality, with Van der Vaart playing for Real Madrid in the Champions League amongst other top European clubs, whereas the humble Dempsey only made a name for himself at Fulham after joining from the MLS side New England Revolution. Interestingly, Dempsey made his first start for Fulham against Tottenham, kick-starting a career which has made him the most prolific American outfield player in the Premier League.

For the past two seasons, the midfielder has showed his flexibility with positioning, being able to play as a striker, attacking midfielder or left midfielder to bolster his strong qualities. In contrast to Van der Vaart, the 29-year-old managed to play every game for Fulham last season excluding one, yet again irony struck as he missed a trip to White Hart Lane. Van der Vaart however struggled to play for a full 90 minutes, and ultimately a 12-man team had to be established with the Dutchman’s replacement being a second thought for every game, as shown by Van der Vaart coming off 20 times in 28 appearances.

Looking back at last year’s form for the two players, it is clearly visible to see why Dempsey should be a replacement for Van der Vaart, and the can easily understand the logic of the American being the replacement of the new Hamburg signing.

Last season, Dempsey played over 1000 more minutes than Van der Vaart, who only played 2321 minutes in the Premier League, in contrast to Dempsey’s 3323 minutes. As a result of this, Dempsey scored 16 goals in contrast to Rafa’s 11, even though the Dutchman managed one more assist than Dempsey with 7. But, when considering that Fulham’s strike force was made up of Pavel Pogrebnyak and Andy Johnson, opposed to Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe, it is no surprise to see that the assist rate of Van der Vaart is higher.

However, when looking at Dempsey and Van der Vaart’s passing zones, it is clear to see that the Dutchman played in a more attacking position than Dempsey, passing the ball in the final third 632 times in contrast to Dempsey’s 550 passes. This emphasises the more attacking duty of Rafa, emphasised by the former number 11 playing 1000 less minutes than the former Fuham player. But it is worth noting that 75% of Dempsey’s final third passes reached their destination, in contrast to Van der Vaart’s 79%.

Dempsey’s more defensive duties has been shown by his more successful defending, with Dempsey having a successful tackling rate of 74%, in contrast to Van der Vaart’s 68%. Importantly, Dempsey made 40 successful tackles in contrast to Van der Vaart’s 25, a huge difference when looking at the numerical values instead of the percentages. His aerial threat is also more prominent, with Dempsey winning a huge 50 aerial duals comparing to Rafa’s small eight wins. This is also shown by Dempsey (150)winning just under double the number of ground duals won by Van der Vaart (74).

So with the statistics looking fairly positive for Dempsey, why has he struggled to find his feet in the Tottenham squad. For that there are a few reasons. With the obvious being Dempsey’s lack of understanding with his team-mates, surely a 29-year-old would understand where the other squad members will be making their runs, especially considering he has been at Spurs for almost 2 months. But realistically, the reason for his poor form will undoubtedly by his high starting position.

Being recognised as a striker at White Hart Lane, the American has to perform and score like a number 9. Whilst 16 goals a season is very good for a midfielder, and even managed to outperform some Premier League strikers, people’s expectations of him are keeping them undecided about his signing. Also, when considering that he is playing in-line with Lennon, who has only found the goal once this season (Dempsey with the assist), and the ‘Welsh Wizard’ failing to live up to his expectations too, it would be naive to rule Dempsey out as a failed replacement for Van der Vaart.

Overall, with Dempsey playing in a more defensive position, such as just ahead of Dembele and Sandro instead of playing off Adebayor, it would be a lot easier for Dempsey’s qualities to be shown. But, with his goals showing his class poaching prowess, it would probably just take time for the Tottenham’s summer addition to fit into place under AVB’s formation.

All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.comSubscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.


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