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French football journalist Jonathan Johnson answers your questions about Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne

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French football journalist Jonathan Johnson answers some of your questions about FC Barcelona's newest signings: Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne.

Lucas Digne and Samuel Umtiti (Photo: Instagram/LucasDigne
Lucas Digne and Samuel Umtiti (Photo: Instagram/LucasDigne
Lucas Digne

This summer has been a busy one for FC Barcelona. The Catalan giants have already signed three players and the club is rumored to be looking to add at least one more player. Denis Suarez was Barça's first signing of the summer, using the buyback option to bring the youngster back to the Camp Nou.

This week, Barcelona welcomed two new defenders in French internationals Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne.

Personally, I don't know much about Lucas Digne or Samuel Umtiti's skills, strengths, weaknesses and so on. I decided it's best to talk to someone who is more familiar with Umtiti and Digne to give us more of an analysis of the players. For this, I reached out to my good friend Jonathan Johnson. He's a French football journalist who writes for multiple media outlets, including ESPN FC, beIN Sports USA and Yahoo! Sport UK. Jonathan has been covering Ligue I, Paris Saint-Germain and the French national team for years. I was honored Jonathan could take time from his busy schedule to answer questions about Umtiti and Digne.

Let's talk about Barça's new "French Connection."

Xoel: What are Umtiti and Digne's strengths and weaknesses?

Jonathan: Umtiti is very well rounded player for one so young. The France international is big, strong and athletic but surprisingly technical too. Umtiti is versatile and can play left back if needed, as well as his strongest role in central defence. He also brings the ball out of defence well. The 22-year-old is a player for the future who is also capable of contributing immediately.

Digne is a very balanced left back, think Maxwell balanced. While most modern full backs are either good going forward or defensively but not both, the Frenchman combines the two in equal measure. Although Digne did not get to show it too much while at PSG, he is a good crosser of the ball and can also hit the target from distance. The 22-year-old bagged a couple of lovely goals with Roma and progressed nicely during his season in Italy. It would have been interesting seeing Digne going head-to-head with Layvin Kurzawa for PSG's starting left back role this coming season.


Xoel: What does Digne need to improve to become a better LB?

Jonathan: Technically speaking, Digne does not need to improve on much to become a better left back. As I said already, he is very balanced. The skills are already there, my question is his mentality. Digne arrived at PSG from Lille as a very promising youngster and despite a couple of excellent seasons with Les Dogues, he appeared to expect to walk into the team ahead of starting LB Maxwell. Perhaps Barcelona fans have not seen much of Max since he left Camp Nou but he has enjoyed a new lease of life in Paris and he is only starting to look his age now in the Champions League. Unai Emery has replaced Laurent Blanc as PSG coach, so there was a chance that Digne could have established himself under the Spaniard. However, he chose not to try and continued to push for a transfer. The French champions were not going to stand in his way as he did not do enough to impress at Parc des Princes (admittedly he was not always given the chance to). As long as Digne can accept that he is second choice to Jordi Alba, then things will be fine. However, it is one thing waiting in line behind a veteran in Maxwell and another to be backup to a 27-year-old Alba. This transfer makes sense for Barca, who get a high quality second left back, and PSG, who get a fee superior to the player's value. I question whether it was actually the best move for Digne himself though.

Xoel: At 5'11, Umtiti is a short CB. What does he do to make up for his lack of height?

Jonathan: Like I said before, Umtiti is extremely powerful and athletic. The man from Yaounde, Cameroon, is a very difficult defender to dribble past. Also, for somebody as strong as he is, Umtiti is surprisingly fast on the ground.


Xoel: In your opinion, what does Luis Enrique need to do to help both Umtiti and Digne grow as footballers?

Jonathan: Both need regular playing time. Umtiti, in time, will be good enough to partner with Gerard Piqué in Barcelona's strongest starting XI in my opinion. However, I am less certain about Digne having the mental strength to overcome Alba's dominance at left back.

Xoel: Do you think Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne's experience in French football will translate well at FC Barcelona?

Jonathan: Yes. Both received a thorough education with Lyon and Lille and the pair are very accomplished players in their positions. If given time, I think that both will adapt well to Spanish football and life at a massive club like Barcelona.

Xoel: Any message to Barça fans about either or both players?

Jonathan: I think that being able to add two high quality players like Umtiti and Digne to the squad has given Barca significant depth ahead of the coming season. Expect to see Umtiti, in particular, challenging for a starting role sooner rather than later.

My thanks to Jonathan Johnson once again. Follow him on Twitter at @Jon_LeGossip.

Xoel