Clint Dempsey came to Tottenham Hotspur on the back of a career year, but is only just now finding his feet with his new team.
Since his move from Fulham at the end of August, Clint Dempsey has so far spectacularly failed to set North London alight. So far he's struggled to understand his role in AVB's system and had difficulty connecting with his teammates on the pitch.
But like the flipping of a light switch, everything began to click into place for Deuce this weekend against West Ham. He was involved straight from the beginning of the match and grew in influence as the game wore on. He produced his best match in a Spurs shirt by some distance.
After the game, Dempsey took time to speak with Ben Pearce about his time at Spurs. Although he fails to acknowledge the significant impact the black eye handed out by Captain Dawson had on his game, he does say some interesting things.
"It was a game I enjoyed because I’m a player that needs to get on the ball. I’m better getting it on the half-turn and then facing my opponents, rather than always playing with my back to goal. I thought I did a better job of getting on the angles where I could get on the turn and drive forward."
We've all seen him receive the ball under pressure, back to goal, only to dribble back towards our own half, have no idea what to do with the ball, and lose possession. It's encouraging to see Dempsey recognize how he needs to play to be effective and work on making it happen.
"We play with two out-and-out wingers who hug the line and are very direct and they can take players on and get crosses in. It’s about knowing when to come close to them to try to help with the play, and when to give them space to take their man on and try to get in the box and get on the end of their crosses.
And it looks like he's starting to understand how to fit into this new system and link up better with his teammates.
So what's the key behind Dempsey's impressive self-awareness?
Not to take anything away from Dempsey, but it's wonderful to know that AVB is taking such a hands-on approach with the players, spending time analyzing match video to teach them just how to play the game properly within his system.
When results don't go our way, it's important to remind ourselves that this is a project, and it's going to take time for AVB to get his message across. Lennon and Defoe have looked like players reborn under the new manager, and now it appears Dempsey is starting to drink the kool aid too. If he can keep playing like he did on the weekend, Project AVB will be in very good shape.
So just how good was Deuce? The statistics paint a pretty good picture. Dempsey completed 40 passes during the match with a 91% pass accuracy. There's nothing particularly staggering about those numbers, but when you look at it in the context of the rest of the season, it represents a huge leap forward. He's averaged just 26 passes per 90 minutes with an 81% average pass accuracy over the rest of the league campaign.
Not only that, but his creative contribution around the box showed enormous improvement as well. He had 4 key passes and one assist (and nearly got on the scoresheet with a shot that rattled the crossbar.) Over his previous 638 minutes of league football? 7 key passes and 1 assist.
Just a week ago many of us were ready to write the American off (and if I know Bryan, he still is), but now that he's finally finding his feet at Spurs, he could give the team a huge lift in our quest for a Champions League place as we head into the fixture-packed Christmas period.
Hopefully today he can give Liverpool a good reminder of why they wanted to sign him before Levy swooped in.