Ousmane Dembele’s future at Barcelona. The Hard Tackle takes a look at three possible destinations for the out-of-favour French winger
Ousmane Dembele’s woes at Barcelona have not eased one bit despite a strong start to the season. The Frenchman has been trying to shake the cobwebs of a difficult first season that was riddled with injuries and poor form. And he did start his second campaign at Barcelona quite brightly.
After the first month or so, Dembele had found the back of the net in the Spanish Super Cup against Sevilla as well as in Barcelona’s league and European wins over the likes of Huesca, Real Valladolid, Real Sociedad and PSV Eindhoven. However, over the last six weeks or so, the 21-year-old has gone off the boil massively.
His drop in stature has been so significant that Dembele has lost his place as a regular, and is not even being named in the starting lineup in the absence of Lionel Messi. The situation has now come to a head, with Barcelona reportedly prepared to let him depart from Camp Nou, even as early as January.
With Ousmane Dembele possibly being put on the market in the January transfer window, and with the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal being named as possible suitors. The Hard Tackle takes a look at three possible destinations where he might end up.
Chelsea have started the 2018-19 season quite well, having taken very little time to adapt to Maurizio Sarri’s possession-based system. But, the team is still lacking some oomph and dynamism in attack that will elevate the Blues to the next level of being a force to be reckoned with in league and Europe.
So far, Chelsea have have been heavily dependent on the performances of Eden Hazard, with the Belgian directly contributing to 42 percent of the goals that they have scored in the Premier League. In his absence, the Blues did step up quite well last time out against Burnley. But, a closer look at their squad would suggest a need to reinforce their wide options.
Apart from Hazard, Sarri has Pedro and Willian as the only natural wingers at his disposal. With both players on the wrong side of 30, an injection of youth in the form of Ousmane Dembele could be just what Chelsea need to take some pressure off Hazard and phase the two experienced campaigners out.
Additionally, if Dembele’s exploits with Borussia Dortmund are anything to go by, Sarri will have an exciting prospect that he can develop in his mould and prove that the 18-month Barcelona stint – should he indeed call it quits in January – was only an ill-fated blip.
Another scenario that Chelsea could find themselves in, is the exit of their talisman himself. Eden Hazard has made no bones about wanting to don the famous white strip of Real Madrid, who still have their sights set on him. Should Hazard end up leaving, Sarri will need someone to step into his boots.
Who better than a player who has shown that he can be a creative force from either flank while also having an eye for a goal. Either way, Dembele is a player who has the potential of fitting perfectly into Sarri’s system and resume his development, while also aiding Chelsea’s rise up the European ladder.
The interest from Liverpool, if true, comes as a bit of a surprise, although a close inspection would suggest why the Reds might be keeping an eye on him. Both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have been linked with moves away from Anfield, with the two Spanish heavyweights, Real Madrid and Barcelona keen on them.
While Liverpool will surely hope to put up a fight against the bigwigs of Spanish football, they still need to keep their options open. And, Dembele is just the kind of player who can be long-term solution for the Merseyside giants, who have been linked with the player on previous occasions as well, most notably before his move to Barcelona.
But, the fact that Barcelona are reportedly looking to recoup the eye watering sum that they paid to land Dembele in the first place could be a stumbling block, not just for Liverpool but for Chelsea and Arsenal as well.
At such a pricey sum, Dembele is an attractive prospect only if he becomes a regular, which is unlikely if both Salah and Mane remain Liverpool players for the long haul. For now, a move to Anfield seems to be the most unrealistic of the three.
As iterated already, the astronomical transfer fee that Barcelona could command for Dembele might just throw off Arsenal, who have been operating on a limited budget lately. But, if they can negotiate an agreeable sum, Dembele is just the sort of player who could continue revamping the Gunners.
At the present moment, attack may be the least of Arsenal’s problems. But, the North Londoners do not have a single winger in their squad, with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alex Iwobi, Danny Welbeck and Henrikh Mkhitaryan being deployed in the wide areas thus far this season. This is where a player like Ousmane Dembele comes in.
Not only can the young Frenchman play on either flank equally adeptly, his pace and trickery is the perfect foil for someone like Mesut Ozil, who is starting to rediscover his swagger once again. Dembele’s creative abilities also mean he could complement Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
All things considered, the addition of Dembele to Unai Emery’s squad could make Arsenal’s attack a complete unit, thereby continuing their resurgence under the Spaniard. Dembele and Aubameyang have previously combined at Borussia Dortmund where the two had struck up a delightful partnership, and that could be enough of a motivator for Arsenal to reunite the two.
Like Chelsea and Liverpool though, the Gunners are only monitoring the player’s situation and would arguably like to negotiate a lower fee. If they can, Arsenal look like a highly realistic destination for Dembele, although they might have to fend off London rivals Chelsea as well.