Since the return of La Liga, Barcelona have won both their games comfortably. Quique Setién has already started rotations, and this has seen La Masía players getting minutes. Primarily Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig and Ronald Araújo, who have all impressed.
Barcelona have returned from the break in good form. Before the season was paused, Barça were fatigued and tired, but now the players look well rested and sharp. Overall the team has performed well in both games. With the long time away from football, Quique Setién seems to be rotating the squad well.
He has put his faith in younger players too, such as Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig and Ronald Araújo. All three have shown that the manager’s faith is correct and they should be challenging for a place in the first team. With rotations likely to continue, culés will hopefully see them grow as players and earn a more prominent role in the team.
17-year-old Ansu Fati continues to excite fans when given the opportunity. He shows a high level of maturity and humility along with an abundance of talent. His goal against Leganés showed that he has a strong character. When Barcelona were struggling to create chances, Ansu stepped up. Many players far more experienced than Ansu Fati could be criticised for hiding in games for Barcelona, but not the left winger.
❛ Ansu is a young player who needs to be managed There is still much for him to learn about himself ❜
He was only on for around 54 minutes, but was effective going forward and looked sharp after the long break. What really makes Fati stand out, and often other La Masía players, is their eagerness to impress. Ansu is always looking to improve and give his all for the team. He has already scored some important goals for the Catalan side in his limited playing time.
Ansu Fati continues to show that he’s not an ordinary talent | Photo by Paco Largo / Panoramic via Imago
Quique Setién will have to manage the young Ansu Fati carefully. Although fans will be desperate to see him play a lot, it is important not to burn him out. It is crucial to manage such a young talent carefully, as such a meteoric rise can be a lot for younger players to handle. He should however try and give Ansu a consistent run in the team to reward his great performances. Furthermore, though links with Manchester United for a £150 million transfer may not be true, it shows how highly rated Ansu is. Barcelona have a potential generational talent and it is no surprise it comes from La Masía. There are many great talents in the academy and they just need that chance to prove it.
Seeing Riqui Puig play for the first team is every Barça fan’s wish. Culés are being tormented with his slow transition from the B team into the Spanish champion’s side. In his rare and sparse appearances, Riqui has given an often lacklustre midfield a sign of life. He wants to play the game at a pace above what the team is currently doing.
Against Leganés he was exactly what Barcelona were needing. They faced a team using a low block and the midfield of Iván Rakitić, Arthur Melo and Sergio Busquets were simply moving the ball too slowly to break down this defence. Puig is everything that the midfield has been missing in recent seasons. He was everywhere on the pitch and was not afraid of getting into attacking positions. He looked to move the ball quickly and was intelligent in his positioning and awareness.
❛ Riqui was great today. He came on and gave us an energy boost. He did very well in 20 minutes and proved his quality ❜
on Riqui Puig’s appearance against Leganés
Setién should seriously be considering giving Riqui more minutes as he is ready to take that step. Consistent game time is the only way footballers can properly grow and improve. Though the central midfielder is smaller in stature, he is incredibly quick over short distances and has a great change of pace. Puig is able to retain the ball well and is also strong at both dribbling and passing.
He is the only midfielder, along with Vidal, that is more of an attacking threat and makes these runs from midfield. It is clear that he should be considered more to bring balance to the midfield so it is not too defence minded. Riqui really needs game time and, with plenty of rotations to come, now would be the best time to start playing him more regularly.
Central defender Ronald Araújo had a flawless game against Mallorca on Saturday night. Araújo partnered Gerard Piqué at the heart of the defence and put in an outstanding performance. The Uruguayan was dominant at the back, but also showed great positional awareness and that he is comfortable playing the ball out from the back. He handled a difficult Takefusa Kubo well when he needed to, who is a tricky player and has good dribbling.
❛ The young players Ansu, Riqui and Araújo are all very different players, but they are very talented and bring us quality ❜
Ronald has all the makings of the perfect centre back for Barcelona. He was composed and confident in everything he did. Though tougher test will await him, he was outstanding against Mallorca and there is a lot of potential there.
Just like Ansu Fati and Puig, Araújo needs game time if he is going to progress. With Samuel Umtiti struggling, as he seems to have lost his consistency at the moment, the 21-year-old could be pushing to be higher in the pecking order. Piqué will need to be rested at some point and, with Araújo the only other right-footed centre-back, he should be given the opportunity. La Masía products have to be used and trusted again, especially with the club in a financially weak position and with a squad in desperate need of rejuvenation.
Ousmane Dembélé: Is the serious business finally about to start?
After three long campaigns plagued by injury, many hope that Ousmane Dembélé can overcome these issues in the 2020/21 season. The young Frenchman has exceptional talent and, on his day, can change the outcome of the match at any moment.
As the second most expensive player in the club’s history, Ousmane Dembélé has not lived up to his price tag yet. Having missed the majority of matches at Barcelona due to injury, it has been a frustrating time for both the player and culés.
There is no doubting the winger’s talents, but Ousmane Dembélé must prove his worth in this upcoming 2020/21 season. He has the potential to be one of the world’s best if he can stay injury-free, but will he achieve it? When he has managed to stay fit, Dembélé has been one of the most decisive players at the club, but many conditions have to be met for that to happen.
The injury problems
It is almost impossible to discuss Dembélé’s time at the Camp Nou without mentioning his injury problems. Before joining Barcelona, the pacey winger was only injured for a total of 10 days during his time at Borussia Dortmund. Then, with his move to the Spanish giants, injuries have stacked up.
According to Transfermarket, Ousmane has missed a total of 80 games due to injuries since joining in the summer of 2017. In terms of days out injured, this amounts to 512 days unavailable in just three terms. Although injuries are common in football, it is the frequency and length of Dembélé’s that are the issue. At the most important times of the season, the club has not been able to rely on him.
Questions should be asked on why the injuries started mounting up when he arrived in Barcelona. It is the same recurring injuries that are affecting the former Rennes youngster. The predominant ones are involving his hamstring and muscles. These can be serious and, without the proper treatment and recovery, can haunt a player through his full career regardless of the talent that once mesmerised the world and terrorised the opposing defences.
What Dembélé can offer
Though these injuries have been a cause of much frustration, there have been enough flashes of brilliance to convince the club to keep their faith in him. When the 23-year-old has managed to have a consistent run in the team his form continues to grow. The fake shot king can be one of the most exciting players to watch at his best. His incredible pace and dribbling can be a real asset to Barça in unlocking tight defences.
Dembélé has scored some incredible goals at the club already. His goals in the Champions League against Tottenham and his thunderbolt winner against Sevilla in the 2018 Spanish Super Cup are real standouts. Being just as strong with his left foot as his right, this allows him to play on the left or right wing effectively. By April 2019 he had achieved the incredible record of having 14 goals and 14 assists with both his right foot and left foot.
So far, the Frenchman has played a total of 74 games for Barcelona, scoring 19 and assisting 16 times. It shows that he can create and score goals. Thus, ahead of the 2020/21 season, Ousmane Dembélé could be an important player for the team if he can stay fit. He could be key in taking some of the pressure from Lionel Messi in terms of having to create and score the goals for Barça.
With the likes of Ansu Fati, Francisco Trincão, Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembélé will face tough competition this year | Photo by David Ramos via Getty Images
When watching Dembélé play for the Catalan side there are several impressive attributes that also stand out, apart from his pace and dribbling. One of these is his ability to drag in two or three defenders to try and contain him. This creates a lot more space for others to exploit, especially Messi. Barça have particularly struggled against teams that play a low block and Dembélé could be the player to help break these defences.
Another attribute he posses is a good connection with Messi. When Barça’s number 11 is on form, he connects well with the Argentinian. They have a good understanding of each other’s game. With Luis Suárez‘s departure from the Camp Nou, Messi will be looking for others to connect with in attack. Both are creative and can pick out difficult passes.
The 2020/21 season, already his fourth at the club, will be the most important in the Barcelona career of the still young Ousmane Dembélé. If another long-term injury strikes, then it is likely patience will run out with him. He can make basic mistakes such as misplacing simple passes, being out of position and lacking composure in front of goals. He does return from injuries rusty and the ball bounces off him or his control lets him down at times.
But the potential the winger has when he plays is endless. Dembélé is a special player and could be a generational talent if able to play regularly. If he can stay injury-free, he could be the second most important player at the club, after Messi. One of the most enjoyable players to watch on his day, Dembélé needs to perform this season and fulfil his potential.