Dempsey the dynamo
Fulham's red-hot midfielder does it again, plus Chelsea's grand escape
It's all going Chelsea's way. Benefiting from a linesman's error, the Blues kept the momentum going with a last-gasp 2-1 win over brave Wigan in the Premier League.
Liverpool, meanwhile, still can't win, although a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa ended a run of three straight defeats. But we can't lead off a look at Saturday's action in the Premier League without mentioning Clint Dempsey.
Dempsey's time at Fulham almost up
The one thing that stood out in a conversation with Steve Nicol four years ago was that the former Liverpool defender said Dempsey, the U.S. international mainstay, wouldn't look out of place competing in the Champions League. This was just a year after Dempsey left MLS to join Fulham for a nearly $3 million fee. The low price tag implied that not much was expected from the Texan.
But now, anyone who thought Nicol was being too kind to the player he used to coach at New England will have altered their opinion. When Dempsey scored twice in Fulham's 3-0 win at Bolton, it pushed his tally to 21 goals in all competitions and 15 in the Premier League this season.
As such, the Texan is the top scoring midfielder in the division, ahead of the likes of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale, an impressive quartet with far heftier reputations. And Dempsey is no one-season wonder, either, which makes it obvious why Fulham is eager for him to extend his contract. The Cottagers want Dempsey to stick around, first and foremost; locking him up would also prevent Dempsey from walking away on a free transfer when his current deal expires at the end of next season.
But how can he not leave this summer? Dempsey, according to reports, was close to joining Arsenal on deadline day in last summer's transfer window. This week he was linked to the Gunners again in the Daily Express.
Dempsey's prowess in front of goal and his versatility -- he can play as a striker as well as in his usual spot in the hole, and he score from distance and with his head -- must indeed entice Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who lacks adequate punch behind Robin van Persie. Dempsey has grit, something the Gunners are devoid of, too.
Even if German striker Lukas Podolski arrives at the Emirates as anticipated, Arsenal's depth would still trail that of Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham. But other clubs besides the Gunners are sure to come calling; maybe even Nicol's old team, Liverpool, or Chelsea, two sides that desperately need a steady supply of goals from midfield. The aging Lampard, for instance, won't be a regular with Chelsea in 2012-13.
At 29 years old, if Dempsey does harbor ambitions to shift to a big club -- and we know that's the case -- he has to bid adieu to Fulham sooner than later. Given the fine servant he's been, Fulham likely won't stop him if a reasonable offer arrives.
Three more points for Chelsea
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is usually so positive around the media. If his side was to lose a game 5-0, he'd probably come out and say, "Well, we made sure they didn't score a sixth."
Martinez's Wigan had lost 8-0 and 6-0 to Chelsea in the two previous seasons but should have, at worst, left Stamford Bridge with a 1-1 draw. The suddenly free-scoring defender Branislav Ivanovic -- three goals in his last two Prem games -- gave Chelsea a 1-0 advantage in the second half even though he was clearly yards offside. To upset Martinez further, there was also controversy on Juan Mata's winner in injury time as Chelsea nicked a 2-1 win.
As such, his postgame interviews took on a surprisingly acidic tone. Martinez, speaking to Sky Sports, came away with "a feeling of injustice for my players." (In his BBC interview, he went so far as to call the linesman's performance "disgusting.") Instead of climbing out of the relegation zone -- losses by Bolton and Blackburn meant the results went Wigan's way outside of Stamford Bridge -- the Latics remain in the bottom three.
The calls don't even themselves out -- no manager really believes that -- but the kicker of Ivanovic's tally is that within seconds, thanks to instant replay, most everyone knew the goal shouldn't have stood. But if there's still no goal-line technology, the use of technology to settle other matters in matches is light-years away.
Chelsea seeks a fifth straight win when it makes the short trip to Dempsey's Fulham on Monday.
One to forget for Spurs
The two most memorable moments in Sunderland's 0-0 draw with Tottenham in the early kickoff centered on a yellow card for diving to Sebastian Larsson and a secret-looking conversation between two former Arsenal teammates, William Gallas and Nicklas Bendtner.
That tells you this one was a dud. A damp squib. Dour.
If referee Chris Foy had given Spurs a penalty -- and he wouldn't have been wrong to -- when Emmanuel Adebayor's header struck Phil Bardsley's arm in the first half, and if it had been converted, Sunderland would have been forced to come out of its shell instead of sitting back and soaking up pressure. Then proceedings would have livened up. Instead, the Black Cats -- who had a mere 29 percent of possession -- defended and sought to counter, largely without success. There was no six-goal thriller this week. (Though Foy didn't award the PK, to his credit he was right not to award two other potential penalties, one to each team.)
Tottenham's road form is troubling (winless in 2012). Worse yet, the goals have dried up: just five goals in Spurs' last five league games. Tottenham was a title contender two months ago, but now a spot in the Champions League next season is far from assured, with Chelsea charging and Newcastle still hanging around.
Mostly huffing and puffing from Liverpool
After Liverpool's 2-0 loss at Newcastle last week -- when Andy Carroll was criticized for what looked to be a dive and then stormed off after being subbed, while Pepe Reina collected a straight red card -- it had to get better. It did, but only slightly: Luis Suarez netted a late leveler in the 1-1 result with Villa. The Reds drew at home for the ninth time, the most in the Premier League.
The expensive Carroll entered in the 65th minute and missed a header set up by Gerrard. Kop favorite Dirk Kuyt, finally given a start by under-pressure manager Kenny Dalglish, shot off target on an absolute sitter before halftime, and Suarez struck another post prior to his tying goal.
Of all the sides in the top 12, only city rival Everton has scored fewer goals. Everton, though, found a finisher in Nikica Jelavic. He accounted for both goals in Everton's 2-2 draw at Norwich.
In 41 appearances this season, Carroll has scored six goals (three against lower league opposition); in 10 Everton appearances, the $12.5 million Jelavic boasts five goals, all versus teams in the Premier League.
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A long month ahead for Wolves
Not being able to score while also leaking goals is a deadly combination.
In the wake of a 2-1 loss to Stoke in the day's late kickoff, the stats show that only Stoke and Wigan have scored fewer goals in the Premier League than Wolves, but no team has been breached more. And for the third consecutive outing, last-place Wolves scored the first goal, only to get beaten in the end.
A look at Wolves' roster in 2009, when they were promoted to the Premier League, reveals the squad hasn't sufficiently changed to keep up with the quality of the league. Recently departed manager Mick McCarthy deserves credit for keeping Wolves up the previous two seasons.
With six games remaining, Wolves are six points adrift. In the next five, they confront Arsenal, Manchester City and Everton at home, and Sunderland and Swansea away.
Not many points to come.
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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