Sunday, January 21, 2018

Welcome back, Ousmane Dembele!

Milos Markovic in Editorial, La Liga 5 Jan 2018

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The French hot-shot Ousmane Dembele moved to Barcelona in a £94.50 million back in August 2017 when entire football world expected this young kid to act as a direct replacement for the world’s most expensive player, Neymar.

Victim of High Expectations

Former Borussia Dortmund hit the wall of high expectations from the very first moment he stepped on the hot Catalan soil and was burdened with huge pressure which boiled during his official club presentation.

What was supposed to be a ceremonial manifestation during which one of the world’s most talented players was supposed to strut some of his stuff in front of the anticipating fans, turned into a grotesque performance.

More than 17,000 Barcelona supporters gathered on Camp Nou on a warm August afternoon – not to offer their warm welcome to their club’s latest signing but to voice their discontent against president Josep Bartomeu. The evidently distraught young boy who had just arrived in one of the biggest clubs in the world stood there confused, largely failing to maintain control of the ball in a traditional round of keepy-uppy and a display of skills.

A serious thigh muscle injury came soon afterwards to oonly make Dembele’s start to life at Barcelona more devastating and disturbing, leaving the Frenchman unavailable for a long couple of months.

The recovery process, fortunately, went without major problems and after long 107 days out of action, the flamboyant winger is finally fully fit and ready to prove his doubters wrong.

A New Signing for Barca

Dembele was ruled out without even properly introducing himself in every sense of that word and his Thursday’s return in Barcelona’s Copa Del Rey stalemate against Celta Vigo was in a way interpreted as his first-ever appearance for La Liga leaders.

Ernesto Valverde deployed Dembele in a false-nine position to limit his defensive responsibilities and allow him to get back into the much-needed rhythm within a competitive environment.  Dembele did not make much of an impression during some 20 minutes of action he was granted but his return comes as a wonderful – let’s not forget an expensive – gift to Barcelona manager.

The Catalans are expected to be proactive during the January transfer window with Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho marked as the top transfer target.

Barcelona are reportedly ready to invest a great lump of money to bring the Reds maestro over to Camp Nou following a failed succession of summer attempts. Coutinho is seen as a direct replacement for the ageing captain Andres Iniesta and as an instant fit into the existing Barcelona squad which – unfortunately – is not the case with Ousmane Dembele at the moment.

Where will Valverde Fit Dembele?

La Liga leaders have been going from strength to strength this season, making the best use of the 4-4-2 system with Leo Messi and Luis Suarez spearheading the attack for the most of the campaign.

The infamous MSN trident has long been forgotten and Ernesto Valverde now faces a difficult task.

He could return to 4-3-3 in order to make room for Ousmane Dembele, which would imply benching one of the high-performing midfielders – Iniesta, Busquets, Paulinho and Rakitic – which are all enjoying fantastic seasons at Barcelona.

Barcelona boss needs to accommodate his expensive summer recruit – and make room for Coutinho most likely – which could result in a much-changed Barcelona in the second part of the season. With Ousmane back to full fitness and pushing for a starting berth, the increase in competition for places can only be a good thing for a club such as Barcelona.

Right?

Still, should Valverde modify a soundly working system for the sake of a £94.50 million player knocking on the first-team doors?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Milos Markovic


Formerly a Chief Editor at the largest sports site in Serbia Sportske.net, Milos Markovic is an avid football writer who contributes to a variety of online football magazines - most prominently Soccernews.com and Futbolgrad.com. His feature articles, editorials, interviews and match analyses have provided informed opinion and views, helping the football aficionados keep up to date on relevant events in world football.

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