Despite being just 21, Ousmane Dembélé has great experience under his belt. He already won La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Supercup. In addition to these titles, he took part in France’s World Cup triumph last summer. However, Neymar’s contribution to Barcelona has never really been replaced which heaped constant pressure on Dembélé. Since he has back from the World Cup, Dembélé seems to have changed. This tactical analysis will break down how Dembélé has evolved.
From the right to the left
Last season the Frenchman was often positioned on the right side in a 4-4-2 shape. This shape allowed Jordi Alba to take the left wing for himself. In 2018/2019 without Andres Iniesta and Paulinho (both transferred to Asia), Ernesto Valverde made some modifications even if he has kept the same shape. Dembélé is positioned on the left side and Arturo Vidal/Ivan Rakitic cover the right side when Messi cuts in.
And vice versa
When an important player isn’t available, he’s positioned on the right side and as he is very ambidextrous, he fits role just as well. The French winger has now scored as many first-team goals for clubs & country with his right foot as he has with his left foot (20 goals with each foot).
Dembélé’s primary strength is his ability when running with the ball. He loves taking on the opposition one-on-one with the ball at this feet. He has completed 2.7 successful dribbles per game in La Liga and is usually fouled two times per game in Champions League. This is a strong success rate because of the volume of his attempted dribbles. He actually has the fifth highest total in the league.
If we compare that stat with his stats from last season we can easily see the difference. Last season he made in total 40 successful dribbles, with 59 % success rate. This season he already has five and the best is yet to come according to his French national team partner, Samuel Umtiti.
Last season, we used to see Ousmane lose many balls. Some consultants in French television thought it was all due to the pressure. He couldn’t handle it in addition to the fact that the guy loves going to parties in Maghreb region particularly in Morocco. The ex-Rennes talisman has registered three assists in 19 games this season, whereas he had registered only 6 in 17 games in La Liga 2017/2018. He counts 32 key passes it’s already more than his last season (28). He is the placd 18th in this category.
The former Dortmund number seven has the ability to create space without the ball. He loves staying wide to create space for a through ball (often from Messi or Alba) which results in a shot. This is especially effective when the defenders are compact in the central areas and forget the flanks.
The new generations of wingers are not known for their abilities to find the target when they shoot. For example, Vinicius Junior has only hit the target with 62% of his shots. Last season Ousmane Dembélé had 10 of his shots on target (67%). It seems he has worked on it in the summer, he has found the target 14 times even if the percentage (56%) is less but when you try more the percentage eventually is lower. When we take a look at his contribution in Barcelona’s goals in La Liga 2018/19 we can notice that he is the third-highest scorer with 13 goals in all competitions.
His best matches so far this season:
Four chances created, one assist, 58 accurate passes, 106 touches, 11/17 duels won, 8/10 dribbles succeeded, seven recoveries, 100% at tackles
He created two chances, scored one, won nine of his 11 duels and was fouled three times. He finished as the best Barcelona player on the pitch.
Ousmane completed 11 take-ons in 69 minutes vs Leganes; the most by any player in a single La Liga game so far this season. He also had 48 touches, eight take-ons, three crosses, two chances created, one shot, one goal.
The “new Dembélé” helps Jordi Alba in defensive transition he has 0.3 interceptions and 0.8 tackles on average per game. Last season the left-back had Iniesta to cover the spaces he left in positioning himself high up the pitch. Everybody knows that Iniesta is not best when he has to run in comparison to Dembélé. He relegated P.Coutinho to the bench, a situation that presages a possible departure of the former Liverpool number 10.
At the moment, Dembouz has a sprained ankle and P.Coutinho seems to have, step by step, found his level again. He scored twice against Sevilla in Copa del Rey tie (6-1). We are excited to see how Ernesto Valverde will manage them when the Frenchman will be available to play. The Catalan boss has shown many times before his lack of inventiveness to resolve problems.
He has to progress
Let’s compare the Catalan winger to Florient Thauvin (his first principal contender for a place in French national team) and Jadon Sancho, the most impressive winger this season.
|Ousmane Dembélé||Florient Thauvin||Jadon Sancho|
|Matches started||13 (68%)||18 (90%)||12 (63%)|
|Minutes played||1 124||1 562||1 202|
|Shots on target||14||24||10|
Despite his impressive evolution through the season, we noticed that he’s less decisive than Thauvin and Sancho. He has been decisive 11 times whereas the Marseille winger and the BVB winger have both contributed to 15 goals. He plays less, which is explained by the fact Ernesto Valverde usually substitutes him.
The Barcelona number 11 has time to progress, having players such as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez or Antoine Griezmann and Mbappé as national teammates beside him would be very crucial in his improvement. He has to learn from them. Because he has to work his shot location and shot volume if he wants to be in the French’s starting XI for the next Euros.