Ousmane Dembélé’s recovery has hit a bump, with him being pulled out of training due to muscle fatigue. While it seems it’s not a full relapse, and rather precautionary, the fear it generates is in large part because Barcelona doesn’t have a lot of depth.
Besides Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona have Ansu Fati, a 17-year-old. The club sold Carles Pérez, another youngster, last week. In addition, Luis Suárez is out injured for four months, essentially the rest of the season, while Dembélé is still not fully recovered.
For comparison, Real Madrid have 8 players in the forward positions: Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema, Lucas Vázquez, Luka Jović, Marco Asensio, Mariano, Vinícius Júnior, and Rodrygo.
It’s not necessary to have 8 forwards in the squad, but having only two with any experience who are currently fit is problematic.
Quique Setién does have a few options. Sergi Roberto can play on the wing (well, he can play anywhere.) He also has Álex Collado, a Barcelona B player that the manager has reportedly taken a liking to. Still, it was telling that the changes for Griezzmann and Fati in the 2-1 win against Levante were Riqui Puig and Roberto, and not Collado.
Speaking of Barça B, the team let their striker, Abel Ruiz, go in the transfer window. He was once considered one of the brightest stars of his generation, but his progress has stalled. Rey Manaj, an Albanian international, was signed as a replacement, but I don’t think Setién really plans to use him right away.
There’s also Hiroki Abe, a Japanese international winger. But now we are talking about youngsters who had not yet had their debuts with the senior team. It’s hard to see them having a lot of minutes.
The forward positions make it most noticeable, but really, this is a squad that’s short all around after the departures of Jean-Clair Todibo, Moussa Wagué, and Carles Aleñá. Once again Setién will work with youngsters. He’s already used Puig often, essentially making him a first teamer.
Barcelona seemed to consider signing a forward during the transfer window, particularly Valencia’s Rodrigo. But no deal materialized.