Ousmane Dembele has never been too much away from injuries. His Barcelona career has been full of fitness and injury issues. But the recent injury blow is likely to keep him out for the rest of the season. If there’s a time he could have dreaded to have missed, it is this. His injury comes at the worst possible time for Barcelona.
Since joining the club in 2017, Dembele is now set to miss 78 games due to injury. A lot of them have been muscle injuries, with the latest one being a torn muscle issue. But this time has also seen the club’s star striker Luis Suarez be out due to a knee injury himself. He’s out for the next four months and there is a chance he doesn’t play again this season.
Barcelona had sold young Carles Perez to Roma in January, with the forward arriving on a €1 million loan deal. The giallorossi have the obligation to make the move permanent for an €11 million fee. That leaves them with even lesser options in the attacking positions.
Dembele might have only played five La Liga games, but he would have added depth to that part of the pitch. He adds pace and directness, as evident from his goal against Tottenham Hotspur last season. If he was fit, Barcelona would have had an extra number.
This is a period which has seen Barcelona evolve into a different side under new manager Quique Setien. They have been a lot like Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona. They have been all about passing and keeping possession of the ball, but they don’t register enough shots on target.
This led to losses Valencia, Athletic Bilbao and a close win over Ibiza in the Copa del Rey. In all of these games, Barca had a lot of possession. But they couldn’t open up the opposition enough number of times to create clear-cut chances. When they’ve been off the ball, they’ve looked below par, conceding goals at a disappointing rate.
It has been very much like Setien’s Betis side. And what they’ve been missing is the pace of someone like Dembele. Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi have been the striker options in the 3-4-1-2 shape, with Messi dropping deeper and Dembele playing further forward.
Those are the only regular options Setien has upfront. Both of them have done well under him, but they still need to slowly get into the new system. And as the season goes on, there will be a time when Barcelona will need variety in that part of the pitch. That’s when they will miss not just Dembele, but Suarez as well. They will regret letting Perez leave for the giallorossi.
With the club competing for the La Liga title, it can let them down as the season wears on. While they do face a transitioning Napoli under Rino Gattuso, the Champions League is one way of imposing authority for Barcelona. They’ve been failing in that regard since the 2014-15 season and another disappointment this season will not go down well with fans.