Barcelona: Ousmane Dembele continues to confound

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 03: Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his sides second goal during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano de Madrid and FC Barcelona at Campo de Futbol de Vallecas on November 3, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 03: Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his sides second goal during the La Liga match between Rayo Vallecano de Madrid and FC Barcelona at Campo de Futbol de Vallecas on November 3, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /
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The French winger is certainly a player who divides opinion among Barcelona fans.

Ousmane Dembele finds himself in the box during a cameo from the bench in which he had done little to suggest that his substitution was the right move by Ernesto Valverde, but the ball drops to him after being headed backwards by Gerard Pique and he fires a volley which arrows right into the corner to draw Barcelona level. A timely reminder of his ability. Just a few minutes later, Luis Suarez gets on the end of a deep Sergi Roberto cross to pull Barcelona ahead and snatch an unlikely victory.

The goal from Dembele was crucial in getting Barcelona three points, however, his overall performance was all over the place as he lost possession a number of times and didn’t seem willing to take on the defender to get himself into a better crossing position. It could be argued that firing in an early cross or recycling possession rather than losing possession is the smart move, but a player of his ability should be confident enough to beat a player in a 1v1.

Nonetheless, a look at his numbers shows how impressive he has been considering he is only 21-years-old because he has scored six and assisted two in all competitions as well as four and nine last season.

In terms of his finishing, he is overperforming with four goals from 1.77xG (expected goals) as well as underperforming with the chances he is creating due to just one assist from 2.58 xA (expected assists), per Understat, although that is due to the finishing of his teammates rather than a problem for him. He also averages 2.94 key passes per game which is second only to Lionel Messi in the team, according to Understat. However, his price tag means there are sky-high expectations attached to him.

There is also a sense when watching him play that he could do so much more considering how phenomenally talented he is. Being equally talented with both feet at a high level is a rare skill even at the top level of football. He has also shown previously that he has the vision to read the game and cut through defences with precise passes or quick footwork.

His work-rate doesn’t help even if he is an attacker. Creative players shouldn’t be overburdened by defensive responsibilities, yet he seems unwilling or unable to pressure the defender properly after he loses possession. He should at the very least help nullify the danger of his turnovers.

Valverde realistically has two options with the French winger: play him regularly to hopefully bring some consistency to his game or use him off the bench as an impact substitution such as in the last match. Philippe Coutinho’s struggles in central midfield mean that there are essentially four players vying for the three forward roles and Lionel Messi is undroppable once he returns from injury. Luis Suarez has also returned to form recently, which means one of Dembele or Coutinho will be on the bench.

La Masia gradually losing its presence in Barcelona’s first team. dark. Next

A future manager may be able to fully convert Coutinho to central midfield, but Valverde doesn’t seem able to so this selection issue will continue into the near future. Dembele has been a game-changer off the bench multiple times so far this season, therefore, using him as an impact substitute seems the best solution, but that comes with the frustration of him making the wrong decisions and losing possession on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, this leaves little place for Malcom in the first team plans.