What if the No.9 Barcelona are looking for is Ousmane Dembele?

The French forward has found form in a new central role under Koeman

Toni Juanmartí

Among the positive work done by Ronald Koeman at Barcelona, there's something that deserves a special mention: helping Ousmane Dembele re-find his form. More than that actually: converting him into a decisive player. If 'Dembouz' isn't yet at the level he was at Borussia Dortmund, he's not far off. The Frenchman showed his attacking qualities against Real Sociedad once again on Sunday and did so once again in a central role, where he's scored his last three goals.

Barça's new system has given the attackers more freedom to surprise the opposition. The flanks are no longer for wingers but for the full-backs, who, in Jordi Alba and Sergiño Dest, have become wing-backs. That's meant Dembele and Antoine Griezmann can come inside, making it harder to mark them. In the case of Griezmann, he moves between the lines, while Dembele alternates between finding space in behind, drifting wide and bursts on the counter-attack.

STEP FORWARD

What's clear is that the 3-5-2 (or 3-4-2-1) has freed Dembele from being overcrowded by two or three rivals. Now, he's taking steps forward in reading the game and when he's in those situations, he looks for a teammate who is free, usually Messi, who he has a growing feeling with.

DAMAGING CENTRE-BACKS

The ex-Dortmund man is one of the players benefitting most from the system. It's not a coincidence that his last three goals have come from movements aking to a centre-forward. At the Sanchez Pizjuan, in the league game, Dembele opened the scoring after running into space and latching on to a Messi through ball.

He found space between Kounde and Diego Carlos and fired beyond Bono with his left foot. Four days later, in the Copa del Rey semifinal against the same Seville side, he scored from outside the area. This time with his right. And against Real Sociedad, he scored with his right after breaking free in the middle and firing home from a Messi through ball. That goal was ruled out for offside but, annoyed by that marginal decision, he broke free in the middle and scored with his left, an almost identical finish.

Ousmane Dembélé sigue creciendo sobre el terreno de juego

| AFP

LEFT OR RIGHT

One of Dembele's strengths is that he's dangerous with either foot. While some players are prone to favour one, which makes them easier to defend, he can go either way. In fact, of his 28 goals, 14 have come with his right and 14 with his left.

As for his contract, it's up in the summer of 2022, so Barça need to deal with his renewal urgently. If they don't manage to tie him down, he could leave for free in just over 12 months.

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