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Ousmane Dembélé still can’t get the basics right for Barcelona

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Goal and assist shouldn’t mask under-par first half showing

FC Barcelona v SSC Napoli - 2019 International Champions Cup Photo by Gregory Shamus/International Champions Cup/Getty Images

Into his third season at Barcelona, Ousmane Dembélé really needs to hit the ground running if he wants to be a regular starter.

Particularly if Neymar is eventually signed too.

Coming back from injury, one has to give him the benefit of the doubt to an extent in this preseason.

However, the Frenchman didn’t do himself too many favors again with his overall performance against Napoli on Saturday.

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A handful of runs which came to nothing isn’t going to cut it any more at the Camp Nou.

They need to be incisive and with an end product more often than not.

He did that in the second half, which produced an assist for Suárez and a great goal himself.

The form which he displayed at the start of last season has to be the level he reaches and doesn’t just aspire to each and every week.

In the first half against the Italians, there were at least half a dozen occasions where a simple ball past his marker should’ve seen him put on the after burners and show the incredible turn of pace he possesses.

And yet, every single time, he moved inside and either lost the ball or was wildly inaccurate with his passing.

His anticipation was virtually non-existent and, once again, his work-rate was noticeably lower than his team-mates.

A lack of movement also made it difficult for anyone other than Nélson Semedo to find him in space for the most part.

We are past the point where allowances should be made, and his first shot on target didn’t even come until 40 minutes had been played.

Dembélé is a World Cup winner who was world class when he was at Borussia Dortmund but has rarely been that for Barça.

Regardless of whether Neymar is signed, at this point it’s hard to see beyond a Griezmann-Suárez-Messi starting front three.

Bring the Brazilian back, and Dembélé really does have to up his game — consistently — if he wants to be more than an afterthought.

Ernesto Valverde can’t be accused of not giving the wide man a chance either.

The Basque was one of his most vocal supporters when it previously seemed as if the club had finally lost patience with him.

And how has Valverde been repaid? By a more professional Dembélé off of the pitch, but by a clone for the most part on it.

In this of all seasons, Barça can’t afford to carry passengers. Let alone those who’ve cost north of €100m.

It’s unfair to say that he is hanging onto his Blaugrana career by the skin of his teeth, but he must understand the importance of his situation if he starts the league season in the same way as his opening 45 minutes against Napoli.