Ernesto Valverde has a problem (which is also a blessing) with a name and a surname: Ousmane Dembele. The French forward, who last week was in the eye of the storm, showed against Atletico Madrid (1-1) why there's so much debate around him. The most anarchic player in the league is also the most decisive at the moment.
The Wanda Metropolitano, minute 76 of Atletico's game against Barça. The Rojiblanco go ahead of their visitors on the scoreboard. The supporters lift the noise level, intoxicated by a new sample of Cholismo in it's purest form.
Ernesto Valverde, once the shock of falling behind had passed, brings on Dembele (miniute 79). What will the young France international offer? Will he be motivated after being left out of the squad before the international break or will he be sulking after not starting again?
The asnwer was an explosion of his talent and a 90th minute equaliser, saving the game for Barça and their place at the top of the league for now. Lionel Messi's assist was incredible.
Statistics show that there's no more decisive player in the league. Of his five goals in LaLiga, four of them have directly won Barça six points, while he also scored the winning goal in the Spanish Super Cup against Sevilla. Only Uruguayan striker Stuani (Girona) is close to comparison at the moment.
If Dembele is capable of adding so much and his talent is recognised by everyone, what's the problem? Well, it's in his consistency.
That's what has driven coach Ernesto Valverde crazy, who manages the day to day as he can; heavyweights in the dressing room (Pique, Luis Suarez...) have made comments in public, as have the directors (Guillermo Amor, Pep Segura), but the club still believe they have a diamond in their 100 million plus investment.
Valverde has used Dembele in 16 of 19 games. He's scored seven times and set up another. He has paid for his inconsistency against Tottenham, Inter and, more clearly, against Real Betis. But in LaLiga he's played in 12 of 13 games -- starting eight.
In the league, he has one assist and five goals from 10 shots on target (19 attempts in total). That's to say, over 25 percent of his shots have found the net. Four of the goals have come away from him at key moments, earning points.
Dembele earned two points with a late winner at Real Valladolid (0-1), two more at Real Sociedad (1-2). Then he scored the late equaliser in the comeback win over Rayo Vallecano (2-3) and the leveller at Atletico (1-1).
What Barça want is for him to maintain that excellency all the time, that he doesn't relax and that he works as part of the group. He has enough examples and teachers in the squad.
Source: FC Barcelona