It would be easy to overlook were the game less meaningful, but when Brad Friedel and Clint Dempsey (right) are on the bench for the season’s first North London Derby, you can’t help but see some meaning in it.
Today, as Spurs visited rival Arsenal to start the English Premier League weekend, both men found themselves on André Villas-Boas’s bench with few excuses to be found.
For Friedel, the selection is the latest salvo in a battle he’s destined to lose. After Spurs’ summer purchase of France international Hugo Lloris, Friedel’s days as Tottenham’s No. 1 were numbered. That he didn’t immediately concede the position to the talented keeper is a testament to his enduring quality, but with $12 million committed to his 25-year-old counterpart, the 41-year-old Friedel’s bound to lose his spot.
Whether today marks that turning point remains to be seen. Villas-Boas has gone to and away from Lloris before this season. It could happen again.
Dempsey’s situation is a little more troubling. The U.S. international has not played well since moving to Tottenham. Today, as Villas-Boas moved away from his preferred 4-3-3 formation and tried a 4-4-2, Dempsey was sacrificed.
As is the case with Lloris, Spurs probably want their summer signing in the team. But unlike the French keeper, Dempsey has been given every chance to cement his place at the top of Spurs’ midfield. His inability to distinguish himself led to his exclusion despite the fact he stayed with the team during the recent international break.
Going forward, it seems Dempsey will be fighting for time with forward Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe, Spurs’ coach now willing to move away from his preferred formation to get his in-form players on the field.
With Adebayor having picked up an early red card in today’s derby, Dempsey will likely get two chances to reclaim a starting spot: mid-week at Lazio and next Sunday versus West Ham United, with Adebayor set to serve a suspension. Now, with Villas-Boas showing Dempsey’s no lock for for the starting XI, the American’s grace period is over.