A Job Well Done – This Season, at least

It was Fulham’s first victory at Anfield, and yet it feels rather hollow. Liverpool was a shadow of the team that rolled over Norwich this past weekend. Clearly, the FA Cup is on Kenny Dalglish’s mind, but with the exception of a few moments of good passing and even fewer threats on goal, Liverpool was disorganized and quite quiet–much like their fans.

The atmosphere was rather eerie this evening in Anfield. The fans were quiet for much of the match, leaving viewers to hear the players’ yelling more often than the fans. To be fair, they had little to cheer about from the start, but you don’t expect such a subdued environment at that stadium.

It seems fitting from the disarray of both teams that Fulham’s goal came from an own-goal. Martin Skrtel has been pretty consistent for Liverpool this year, so it’s disappointing that his shoulder scored the goal, but Fulham did start out the better team. Clint Dempsey did well to initiate the attack leading to the goal with a nice step over and twisting turns to get around the Liverpool back line. Still, perhaps fittingly, it wasn’t Fulham that scored.

Like Liverpool, Fulham had some good moments mixed with long periods of average play. Dempsey was through on goal with a glorious chance in the second half. In the first half, he made a beautiful chip over Liverpool’s back line into the path of Pavel Pogrebnyak although he wasn’t able to score.

The match was quite up and down, and neither team seemed to truly deserve victory. Despite the historic victory, it doesn’t feel like a win that was truly earned, but that’s football. In light of the strange match, I’d like to focus on Clint Dempsey. Although not stellar this evening, he was probably the best player on the pitch tonight, and his season has been extremely successful. I think we all know that Dempsey will be on several team’s short lists this year. I just wonder where he might go.

Recent rumors have suggested Everton. I think he would definitely bring a positive spark to the Everton front line. Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe have provided goals this season, but neither ran away with a large goal count. Instead, the success of Everton has been more of a team effort. Dempsey would bring a spark, more danger, and versatility that could prove valuable to Everton. His creativity allows him to play midfield although his goal-scoring abilities have been the most impressive part of his season this year. Everton could use him in either capacity, supporting the forwards with threatening runs, or taking a place up top himself. I feel that Everton would have that drive to push themselves to a top 5 or top 4 finish with a bit more attacking prowess, which Dempsey could provide.

On a similar note, I think their Merseyside neighbors would profit from Dempsey as well. We saw today that Liverpool does not have the depth that they once had. This was a fairly tame match when looked at from the traditional Liverpool perspective.

Liverpool’s top scorer Luis Suarez has been in fine form this year. Craig Bellamy has brought in six goals and three assists, Andy Carroll has scored four times this year with one assist, and Dirk Kuyt has scored two goals with one assist. I believe that Dempsey would be a strong threat in the Liverpool front line, especially lining up with Suarez. His style would fit into the Liverpool system well. I would think he’d match up better there than with the other traditional top four although this season has blown the usual finish wide open.

Dempsey isn’t quite as technical as Arsenal seems to appreciate although I feel he could offer a lot to their attack. Certainly, Dempsey has an excellent touch and versatility to make a difference in the midfield if they needed him there, but he would be a big change from the typical Arsenal player, so it might be a shaky start as he works his way into that line up.

I worry at Chelsea or Manchester United that Dempsey wouldn’t see as much action as he deserves. I think Liverpool would give him the best opportunity for success. He would have a real chance to crack into the starting line up there. Honestly, either stop in the Merseyside would give a lot of opportunity to Dempsey.

Tottenham could also offer potential for Dempsey. Currently sitting in fourth place, the Spurs have a chance of securing a Champions League spot if Chelsea fail to win the final, which I don’t see happening but that’s for another post. Tottenham have solid forwards in Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor, but I would love to see Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey working together. I feel that could be a beautiful partnership although that is a big if, considering Bale’s recent comments and Dempsey’s options.

Dempsey has shown so much growth with Fulham, and I would love to see him take on a new challenge with another team. Money is a key factor both on Dempsey’s side and on Fulham’s side. European football could also play a big part in the decision process, and we won’t know how that will shake out for a bit yet. Regardless, when I think about Dempsey next year, I can’t help but think he will be in the Merseyside.

My inclination is for him to liven up Liverpool although it would be great to see him join fellow American, Tim Howard, at Everton. I just feel that Liverpool have a style that Dempsey would fit into while being able to lift their attacking spirit. Liverpool need to deepen their squad to be more successful as revealed by their quiet match today, and Dempsey could be a great starting point for a resurgence. He’s ambitious, hard-working, and he stays on his feet (to borrow a Rio Ferdinand phrase). I think his relentless drive, strength, and ability to hold the ball and create opportunities would be an asset to a Liverpool team in need of inspiration. We’ll see in a few months how the chips will fall, but even if he had a quiet night by his standards tonight, Dempsey deserves to continue upwards and onwards. Listening to his interviews, he believes that the sky’s the limit, and that’s half the battle–and I look forward to watching him complete the second half.

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