Five thoughts coming off a weekend spent in Boston at the 6th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference:
There's a couple of factors to consider that might hinder his move to a top PL club. The two most likely candidates that could use Dempsey's talents are Liverpool and Arsenal and both have club philosophies that would generally preclude spending the type of money that Fulham would want on a (soon-to-be) 29 year old player. Were Dempsey 24 or 25, then it's very likely the story would be different. The other members of the "Big 6" -- Spurs, Chelsea, Man City and Man United -- are already well stocked at the positions Dempsey plays and in the case of the latter three, any big expenditure on a 29-year-old attacking player would likely be earmarked more toward a marquee household name (let's face it, there's still some bias against American players out there in the industry). Having said that, you can't really begrudge any player the opportunity to move to a club that has a better prospect of winning trophies (while also vastly increasing his salary). The same burning ambition that has fueled Dempsey's remarkable growth as a player also presumably fuels his desire to test himself against the world's elite, something he'll only get on a regular basis in the Champions League. True, he'd likely find it hard to be a regular starter at certain PL teams, but there are top quality teams in Europe that are in the Champions League (or will be) where Dempsey could certainly crack the starting lineup e.g. the Schalkes, Lilles, Lazios of the world. Granted there's always a danger when a player leaves his comfort zone that he could stagnate on his new team's bench, but in Dempsey's case, I believe his game can still move to another level and to do that, it'd help to be surrounded by better quality teammates and playing in the highest level club games.
Houston pointed out that it's not just data clubs wanted, but good data. For example, it's simply not enough to know how just many shots were taken, but rather where the shots were taken from. StatDNA is one company that attempts to add some depth. "Rather than simply counting events such as passes, key passes and coming up with stats such as completion percentage," said Fran Taylor, director of StatDNA. "We look at the actual effect of those passes, whether they are continuously positive and setting up chances, to create a value that differs." The key driver of success for clubs going forward are those that are able to combine new-age data mining along with the traditional scouting eye for talent. Although as Drew Carey, part-owner of the Seattle Sounders quipped, there are always other intangible factors to consider outside of sophisticated number-crunching. "We kind of have a no-asshole rule at our club," said Carey.