Dembélé before Neymar

Dembélé has become the benchmark forward of the Barcelona. Nobody would have said it in November, when Ansu Fati triumphed, injured against Betis. Nor did it seem that he could be more decisive than Antoine Griezmann. Dembélé was not trusted. The injuries tormented him and it was said that he was leading a bad life in Barcelona. He looked like a lost footballer in a lost team since Neymar fled to PSG. Now, on the other hand, he plays with confidence, he feels important and his teammates entertain him when he scores goals like the one he scored against Valladolid.

Dembélé he is having a good time and has regained the prominence lost since Borussia Dortmund transferred him for 105 million fixed and 40 variable in 2017. The Barça fans see him favorably and the Laporta board seems ready to renew his contract, which ends in 2022. He has no choice but to ensure his continuity or transfer him to make money and bet on the hiring of a center forward of the stature of Erling Haaland. It is not known in any case what will happen in the same way that it is impossible to foresee how Dembélé’s plays will end. His grace lies precisely in his ability to surprise everyone, also the people of Barça.

He does not leave anyone indifferent and his football is so controversial that it always makes you want to jump onto the field to hug him or to strangle him. It is not necessary to know his age – 23 years – because he usually behaves like a child due to the surprise effect generated by his game, so difficult to decipher for his markers as for his teammates, even if it is Leo Messi. Dembélé is one of the few who acts without fear that Messi will fight him, because he has not passed the ball or has made a mistake when finishing a goal opportunity, indifferent to the pressure of the Camp Nou.

He is not concerned about fitting into the team, but about marking the differences from fast driving and changes of pace, very difficult to defend in the open field because he knows how to attack space very well, unpredictable also when he cuts the defender to shoot with his right leg later or the left, it does not matter to him, convinced that he has the power and precision to beat the opposing goalkeepers, as Jordi Masip verified. It has a dribble without cheating – it works or it does not work – that reconciles the fans with those times when they learned to play in the street, a romantic image and perhaps too nostalgic for the firm defenders of the game. big data or those who compare LaLiga with the NBA.

Statistics assure that Dembélé is an unreliable player because he loses the ball many times, often does the opposite of what the play demands and it is difficult for him to define, defects that penalize at a time when team play and sense are valued. collective and there is talk of pressuring, balancing, homogenizing, quite the opposite of the cult of individualism that French represents. Nor is it about him doing what he wants and less in a team like Barça, which acquired excellence when they played in a fine-tuned and synchronized way, especially in Guardiola’s time. There are those who even believe that Dembélé’s triumph is the symptom that the team still has to do despite Koeman’s efforts.

How is Dembélé’s football quantified? Can you admit its imperfection? What data can be used to assess your dribbling? Is it simply a solution for when things go wrong? In this case, and paying attention to Cruyff, it would be a question of doing them well and therefore it would no longer be needed. It cannot be denied in any case that the French international is having a good time, he has already played 25 games in a row, he has scored 10 goals and his charm lies in his ability to risk, dribble, score the impossible goal in the 90th minute. behavior is much more natural than Neymar’s. The Brazilian is a better player, more destabilizing and dribbles better than Dembélé. What happens is that Neymar is fouled more and comes out worse stopped and expelled from the games because he is too aware of the cameras: Neymar has invented the television dribble at PSG.

The Brazilian knows that they watch him, especially on Champions nights, and he likes it so much that sometimes it takes a second longer than necessary to release the ball, to the point that his best virtue ends up penalizing him, which does not happen to Dembélé. Right now, when Barça already depends on itself, it is not convenient to depend precisely on the French, but no matter how desperate his football causes, it cannot do without him, as has been seen in games like Valladolid. Today he seems the fittest and fastest striker at Barça and what it is about from the Barça point of view is to compete for the League and the Cup and not to speculate on the line-up for next season with the signing of Haaland or the return of Neymar, no matter how much the Brazilian is a protagonist in the Champions League.

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