The season came to an official end this past weekend in Europe and no sooner as it ended do we move onto thinking and planning for next season. So far, Arsenal are yet to capture the imagination of the fans with the expected signings of defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stephan Lichtsteiner. Although they are “big name” players, they are not the big names the fans were hoping for exactly.
Arsenal are currently linked with a number of top players in all manner of positions including Bernd Leno, Emil Forsburg and Jean Michael Seri. One particular player though that excites me to read Arsenal are hoping to sign is Barcelona 21 year old prodigy Ousmane Dembele.
The Normandy born, Dembele broke onto the scene in 2014 when just 17 he scored 13 goals in 18 games for Rennes reserve team, the following season he played for the Rennes first team, he had a hand in 17 goals in 26 games, which is some hefty contribution rate for a teenagers’ first season in Ligue 1.
After just one season such was the impact Dembele had, that clubs from around Europe were lining up to take him off the hands of Rennes, notably Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund. Arsene Wenger was so hypnotised by the young Frenchman’s ability it turned into a shoot-out between the two clubs for his signature with Dortmund eventually winning out thanks largely to the amount of young players already playing in the first team.
In his first and only season at Dortmund he struck an amazing link with current Arsenal striker Pierre Aubameyang as well as German international Marco Reus. Thomas Tuchel’s unique tactics helped improve Dembele who went on to create 21 assists and score 10 goals in 49 games. Nimble footwork and a propensity to cross accurately onto the head on his striker made Ousmane Dembele one of the hottest properties in the game.
Following the shock transfer of Neymar to PSG, Barcelona were looking for a new marque player to add flair, style and goals to the Lionel Messi show, after a long draw out move for Philippe Coutinho stalled, Barca acted quickly to sign Dembele from Borussia Dortmund although they also eventually signed Coutinho as well. Dembele was seen almost like an afterthought by many local fans and press, either being called a poor consolation for losing Neymar or merely an expensive knee jerk signing to placate the angry Catalan fans.
Now with rumours abound that Barcelona are close to signing Antoine Griezmann, Dembele’s position looks even more shaky at the club despite making reasonable numbers on the field in the games he played.
There are talks of a 2-year loan to Arsenal, possibly a long drawn out permanent move but we will see on this regard. Importantly many Arsenal fans will be asking what kind of player is Ousmane Dembele should he join the Gunners and where would he fit in?
Dembele works predominantly on the right wing although is equally adept on the left as he is skilfully two footed. The young Frenchman is a kind of crazy mix of Thierry Henry and Mesut Ozil, he has pace to burn, more tricks up his sleeve than Paul Daniels yet also the vision and creative ability to pick a pass mere mortals rarely would make on FIFA let alone in real life. The only things he may need to improve are his goal scoring and his strength, if he works on these he’ll be one of the best in Europe.
Depending on who Arsenal face and how attacking Emery wants his team to be next season, Dembele could find himself playing two different roles should he join.
Here in this first picture we see Emery use his tried and trusted 4 2 3 1 formation. According to reports, Aaron Ramsey will be key to all his plans so he occupies the central attacking midfielder role flanked by the two creative attackers Ozil and Dembele either side of him. Expected new signing Lichtsteiner will not attack as much so he can provide cover behind Dembele on the right. Ousmane Dembele may thrive in a system very similar to his eye-catching days at Dortmund. With creative skills in abundance from the midfield attacking 3 especially in the form of Dembele, he will have the freedom to play his game as well as having to support star striker Aubameyang.
In this second picture we use the PSG style 4 3 3 formation that Emery used to great effect. Dembele is used to playing in formations like this thanks to his time at Barca and sporadic occasions at Dortmund. Here though we see Arsenal using an attacking dream team of Lacazette, Aubameyang and Dembele. The potential for that trio is phenomenal, they could alternate roles and link up well which could lead to lots of goals being scored. Lichtsteiner plays right back once again although he will have to support Dembele further up the field so they are not caught narrow.
However, Unai Emery decides to use Dembele, should he join, one thing is for certain, if he reaches a tenth of his potential at Arsenal, there will be many happy gunners.