Hello, my name is Harrison--I come and go around these parts and have selfishly been absent due to lumbering involvement with MLS and the domestic leagues in America. Much like Andrew Beck, I'm a supporter stateside of the Seattle Sounders FC and being that we're sending you back Clint Dempsey, whether you like it or not, I felt compelled to weight in on the discussion.
It's a funny happening this move of Dempsey back to the Cottage. I made my peace with Dempsey last year as he returned stateside, forgoing many of the larger domestic teams such as New York and Los Angeles--as well as his hometown Houston Dynamo--to come to a club that I would refer to my own but instead will only reference as Seattle. The chronicle of his return was, as you might have heard, quite the spectacle and it lead to softening much of my angst and the disappointment of his departure to Spurs almost exactly one year previous. My hope is with this return to the Cottage that he would have the opportunity to set things right and mend those broken hearts of the West London faithful like he has with me.
According to the reported situation pending a physical, which I'm assuming is complete, and only a week plus change until the loan can be completed, it appears all but certain that the US Captain will rejoin our ill fated side. The question then becomes what will he bring to our line-up and how will it change the selection process?
Since being elected caretaker Rene Meulensteen has used two different sets of line-ups. Primarily in favor of the 4-3-3 combination with Sidwell, Karagounis and Scotty Parker sitting in the middle of the pitch, Meulensteen also exercised a 4-4-1-1 line-up against Tottenham with Kasami acting as a CAM or withdrawn striker.
Considering the overwhelming central midfield options, as well as the current state of form, it's likely if not probable that Rene will continue to elect a 4-3-3 formation going forward though I would suggest it is all dependent upon on the weeks fixture antagonist. The formation has seemed to have serve us well to this point with the Whites averaging 1.5 goals per match this compared to the .86 goals per match they were garnering under Martin Jol.
If there is one thing that you can say about thus far through the season it's that this crew is in need of a play maker who create shots. Not just someone who can take random shots from 25 yards out--I'm looking at you Adel Taarabt--but someone who has the ability to get his teammates involved in passing. Maybe I'm just being a bit idealistic, it wouldn't be the first time I've been called such, but Dempsey's return could be a rallying moment where this team and its players come together to work through this relegation scare.
His last season with Fulham, the 2011-12 edition, was what took him from being an interesting cog in the wheel of Fulham to the man who ran this show and truly endeared himself to our kind and his numbers conveyed that transformation. He set career numbers in shots taken (146, nearly 5 times more than the next player on the club), key passes (55, second on the team to Danny Murphy) and a career low in turnovers (88). It's hard to generally associate value with numbers in the Beautiful Game but these specific ones have predictive value that without certain terms can be taken as positives.
Russ Goldman wrote yesterday about... well, he touched on a few different subjects that I suppose I'll skip. But something that has been a theme on Cottage Talk the last few weeks is the interdependent roles and relationships on the pitch between positions. Having a piece that can come to your club and help smooth things out won't hurt the long term picture. If anything, Dempsey's arrival should help circulate this new found breath of life into an organization that is slowly coming back into a race many thought they had long since surrendered.
The question right now is where would one stick a Dempsey in a 4-3-3 formation? I think that depends on how the situation with Dimitar Berbatov develops. There are also the various factors of growth in relation to both Taarabt and Kasami. Dempsey isn't coming to Fulham to come off the bench. I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't start the first couple games (West Ham and maybe even Norwich in the FA Cup) but come the 11th against Jozy Altidore and Sunderland, I fully expect him to be seated within the XI.
At this point, for my money, the most sense is to see him start in place of Giorgos Karagounis. I know that will ruffle a few supporters feathers but the fact is Karagounis can barely go 70 minutes at this stage and come the middle of the season Rene is going to need to scale back the miles on the 36 year-old legs.
Inserting Dempsey into the midfield allows Dempsey the potential to be everywhere on the field, basically a rover, and that's what he does best. It will also keep both Parker and Steve Sidwell, two of the best pieces of this 2013-14 team, together and possible in a more defensive posture.
One other question that also has been sitting about is how does this affect the possibility of future roster moves with the January transfer window looming? Again, it's impossible to know exactly the amount of money that Shahid Khan is going to relinquish to Rene and the rumor as it's told is that Khan maybe shy about dealing money away money for an individual that may not fit with a new coach next year.
Maybe that's not fair. It's just one possible reality at this point.
Moving back into the realm of what we do know, Dempsey is an impact level talent coming to team that needs him. He's an upgrade at nearly any position that you want to put him at with the exception of Striker and Berbatov. Heck, I'm probably not alone in my sentiments that he's probably a better option in goal that Martin Stekelenburg at this point. All joking a side, he's be welcomed sight at Craven Cottage with new expectations and cries of hope from a desperate new but familiar group of supporters.