Ousmane Dembélé has been criticized for disciplinary problems, but on the pitch, he’s been clutch. The winger has not always had sparkling matches from the first minute until the last, but when Ernesto Valverde gives him time - even just ten minutes, like he did over the weekend - the Frenchman has a tendency to deliver big moments.
But that’s not all. In fact, Dembélé’s goals have earned his team seven points this season, more than any other player in La Liga has earned for his respective team.
He got the equalizer in the 87th minute in a match against Rayo Vallecano that ultimately ended in a 3-2 win for Barça, the winner in Barcelona’s 2-1 comeback over Real Sociedad, and the winner on a bumpy pitch against Real Valladolid in a 1-0 triumph. He also won the Spanish Supercup with a rocket to make it 2-1 over Sevilla in yet another comeback. What’s remarkable is he only has two “superfluous” goals this season, and both came when the score was close. He has two assists this season, one against Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey in a 1-0 win, and one against Real Madrid.
He has yet to score or assist in the first half, and many of his goals come late, when the team is really desperate. To an extent, this is because he is subbed on in the second half often, but even when he gets 90 minutes he tends to come up with late heroics.
With Luis Suárez, Sergi Roberto, Arthur, and Rafinha out with injuries, and Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitić just returning, it’s very likely that Dembélé will get a start against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League. The winger will continue to make the case to Valverde that he has to be a starter.
The team is stacked with players once the injuries get resolved, with Suárez, Sergio Busquets, and Lionel Messi automatic, there will be only three spots left for Arturo Vidal, Coutinho, Rakitić, Arthur, Dembélé, Malcom, Carles Aleñá, Denis Suárez, and Munir to occupy. Not all of them can start, and some have to be subs, and inevitably a few won’t play at all. Rakitić and Coutinho are pretty close to automatic picks as well, which would essentially leave just one spot for a player like Vidal, Arthur, or Dembélé to take in the starting XI.
What’s clear is that Dembélé is a clutch performer, and it’ll be hard to keep him on the bench too long.