Barcelona: Ousmane Dembele performs well in unfamiliar role

VALENCIA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 16: Tono Garcia of Levante competes for the ball with Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona during the La Liga match between Levante UD and FC Barcelona at Ciutat de Valencia on December 16, 2018 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
VALENCIA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 16: Tono Garcia of Levante competes for the ball with Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona during the La Liga match between Levante UD and FC Barcelona at Ciutat de Valencia on December 16, 2018 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /
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The young French winger was used as a wing-back due to Nelson Semedo’s injury.

Ernesto Valverde was forced into a formation change prior to the Levante match due to Nelson Semedo picking up a knee issue and he was the only right-back in the matchday squad. He ended up setting up Barcelona in a 3-5-2 with Ousmane Dembele filling the right wing-back role and Thomas Vermaelen being brought in as the additional centre-back.

The wing-back role requires high work-rate in order to balance the defensive and attacking responsibilities, which isn’t something Dembele is known for. However, the 21-year-old surprised as he stuck to his task diligently even if he did make a few mistakes such as a needless slide tackle in the first half that earned him a yellow card. This role did limit his attacking influence which meant the team were more reliant on Lionel Messi, so it wouldn’t be advised to use him in this role in the future.

Dembele has found it hard to earn the trust of Valverde due to him being a creative player that can at times not take his defensive responsibilities seriously, while Valverde is naturally a cautious coach. The decision to use him in this role suggests that his performances have impressed Valverde enough for him to be seen as a key fixture of the team, which has come at the expense of Philippe Coutinho.

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He was taken off for Denis Suarez but that was in the 81st minute when the score was 4-0 as well as it being the final substitution. Therefore, Valverde was in no rush to take him off and obviously didn’t see him as a defensive weakness.

Sergi Roberto’s imminent return and Moussa Wague’s promising displays for the B team means that there are options for that role or the full-back role if Semedo’s injury is serious. A switch back to 4-3-3 is likely in the next match against Celta Vigo. Dembele should switch back to his usual role on the left-wing as Barcelona aim to finish the calendar year with a win.