Three good questions for Clint Dempsey – Part I: Summers away, fishing and “chill” time

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The season-to-season cycle can be a brutal grind for players at the highest levels. Tottenham Hotspur and U.S. international Clint Dempsey, for instance, is looking forward to his longest break in years – one that stretches almost to a full month!

That is hardly an abundance of time for recuperating and regenerating, mentally and physically. So Dempsey attempts to put the time to full use.

The 30-year-old Texan will soon begin his eighth English Premier League season. (That hardly seems possible! But I double checked; it’s correct.) So there is some precious time off first.

Dempsey will officially be off the clock come late Tuesday night, after the United States wraps up its fifth of five matches that began late last month. Dempsey downshifts into “chill” time following Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier in Salt Lake City; he’ll be off until jetting into Hong Kong with Spurs on July 18 of 19.

In time arranged by Spurs and the United States national team, I talked to Dempsey on Saturday. (This is the first of three parts of the interview)

Q: Considering everything going on last summer, a prolonged transfer saga, the possibility that came and went of you landing in Liverpool and then finally making a late arrival into White Hart Lane, you must be looking forward to a much more settled and relaxed summer?

Yeah, I get almost four weeks off, and that’s the longest break I’ve had since I’ve been to Europe. So I’m looking forward to it. … That was definitely very stressful [last summer]. But now things are good. You just want to think about finishing strong with these qualifiers, making sure we qualify for the World Cup and then, by having a good last game, making sure you enjoy your break and that you can really chill.”

Q: How much time do you get to spend in back home in East Texas during your summers?

In the past, it has always depended on how much time was getting off. I was usually only getting about 20 or 22 days off. So I would usually do 10 days in Texas, then I would do 10-12 days in North Carolina. We’ve got a place in North Carolina – that’s where my wife is from.  It’s a good reference point as far as getting back and forth to England.  So I try to split that time evenly, you know, to really get back to my roots.”

Q: Do you try to get away from the game during your summers, or are you such a soccer junkie that you re-watch matches or try to get into pickup games?

No, I get away from hit, man. I do a lot of fishing, and hanging around outside, hanging out with the family, doing some barbecuing, swimming in the pool, playing with the kids. All those types of things. I try not to even keep my phone around; I try to stay away from that. I try not to even watch too much TV. Every now and then I might catch a game that’s on. But for the most part, I really try to chill and get away from it all and spend time with the family. Because there’s not many times when I’m back in Texas, so you don’t get to have those days when you get to be around all your family, like when I was a kid.”

Bonus Q: You mentioned fishing; do you ever fish in England? Do they even fish like that in England?

You can do some fishing there! I just haven’t got into it. They do some carp fishing and some trout fishing. I know there are some big ol’ catfish up there that would be fun to catch. I just haven’t gotten around to going and doing that. I pretty much do most of my fishing at home with my dad, because that’s what we did growing up. We didn’t have a lot of money to go different places, so we would just go camping at the lake. We would go to Lake Sam Rayburn and places like that, and those are definitely some of my best memories as a kid.”

(MORE: Part II … London calling)

(MORE: Part III … Dempsey’s upcoming season at Spurs) 

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Arsenal board will be told decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.

Report: Wenger ready to pay Ozil, Sanchez club record deals

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Arsenal knows its departure from the UEFA Champions League has to be a short one, and that keeping its two best attackers around is imperative.

That’s why Arsene Wenger is preparing to make Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez the top paid players in Arsenal history, according to a report from The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson.

The contract status of both players has been a touchy one this season, and Sanchez especially has been linked with some of the biggest clubs in Europe (including London neighbors Chelsea).

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

But perhaps the Gunners’ FA Cup triumph over Chelsea has Ozil and Sanchez feeling good vibes about the Emirates Stadium set, and Arsenal is ready to pounce. According to the report:

Wenger has told the board that he thinks he can win the Premier League if this group stays together and is supplemented by no more than two or three key additions. Ozil is understood already to have been offered more than £250,000 a week and the club are ready to go to around £280,000 for both him and Sanchez.

The Gunners need both players healthy and happy heading into next season, and appropriate additions as well (A top striker is a must. Again). Wage structure is important, but Arsenal will have a blessing in disguise if another player can make a legit case he deserves to be paid like Ozil and Sanchez any time soon.

West Ham, Everton, and the superstar striker’s need for the Champions League

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Come up with a list of active elite level strikers, and it’s likely to be a short one filled with names from UEFA Champions League clubs.

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Costa, Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Harry Kane, even Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Rarely do names like these move to a non-UCL club while in their prime, and it’s just as uncommon to see them stay at clubs which have failed to qualify for the UCL.

The money, the prestige, the endorsements; All are amplified by the world stage. Given the massive import of their domestic stage and spotlight, Premier League sides have bucked this trend on occasion — see Romelu Lukaku — but it’s the exception to the rule.

That’s what puts an ambitious club like West Ham United between a rock and a hard place. The Irons have been vocal about their desires to bring in a top-end striker, and it’s likely they’d be happy to spend what it takes to attract Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang, or Cavani to town.

Lyon reportedly rejected a $45 million bid for Lacazette last season, admitting that ultimately the player’s desires would determine his future. Higuain, too, was linked to chairman David Gold’s wallet before moving to Juventus. Carlos Bacca also saw his future connected to the Irons.

Instead, Gold landed Andre Ayew from Swansea, and had to hope Andy Carroll could stay healthy or Enner Valencia would deliver. Not a striker, Dimitri Payet apparently decided to skip town soon after West Ham’s Europa League exit at the hands of Astra Giurgiu.

Now it’s Kelechi Iheanacho being linked to the London Stadium, another hopeful swing from the Irons that points a strong finger at the problem: West Ham can be as ambitious as it likes, but it’s going to need a miracle to pull an elite striker to London without European football.

And it shouldn’t happen, but what if Everton is bumped from the UEL in the third qualifying round or playoff next year? Will Lukaku follow Payet’s lead and sink another team from joining the discussion? Though an argument can be made it’s better for Everton to lose those summer games, the Toffees very much need to succeed in the UEL qualifying and also show signs of strength in the early PL docket. That’s the unforgiving life of sitting on the outskirts of the powerful tier.

Every team at every level is searching for the next elite striker. Some, like West Ham, will need to luck into a young buck on the rise or a flawed striker finding his potential. And how do they hold onto that player, one who will have alerted the big boys to his arrival, without qualifying for Europe? It’s improbable.

The ability of teams like Chelsea and Liverpool to compete for a European slot in the PL standings thanks to missing out on the UCL the year before signals hope for clubs like Everton and West Ham. And five Premier League sides competing in the UCL this year could extend an invitation to stay longer in the Top Seven discussion for sides like Southampton and Leicester City, too.

So this summer’s striker captures are huge for Slaven Bilic and David Gold. This is a window the league’s “next group” won’t have open annually, and West Ham’s hopes of barging into the discussion again hinge on who shows up by August.