Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Bilbao | Tactical Breakdown of Ousmane Dembele’s role in the game

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Barcelona comfortably saw off Athletic Bilbao and maintained their unbeaten run in the league as goals from Paco Alcacer and Lionel Messi ensured three points for Ernesto Valverde’s men. This brief article is intended to give a fair idea of how Ousmane Dembele’s presence altered the dynamics for Barcelona.


Dembele | 1

Made using TacticalPad

Barcelona: 4-4-2 Manager: Ernesto Valverde

Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Dembele, Paulinho, Rakitic, Coutinho; Messi, Alcacer

Athletic Bilbao Manager: Jose Angel Ziganda

Kepa, de Marcos, Nunez, Martinez, Saborit; San Jose, Etxebarria; Susaeta, Garcia, Lekue; Merino

Tactical Breakdown:

  • Barcelona were able to build up with ease against this Bilbao press thanks to their structure

-Rakitic into the back line and Paulinho the only central occupant

-Dembele tucking in allowing Roberto to bomb up

-Messi’s presence in the centre draws focus, outside remains free

  • Ousmane Dembele was brilliant until he was subbed off around the hour mark for Barcelona today. His presence on the right wing ensured that Messi could move to more central areas and have easier access to those passes to Alba from near that half space
  • His dribbling skills plus his composure on the ball meant that he was a constant outlet on the right and was an able creative influence. Messi was relieved of attention due to Alcacer and Coutinho moving into the box. Note- Paulinho’s run drags a marker to open lane to Messi
  • Because of his unpredictability, there was more variety in the attacks from Barcelona, affecting the dynamics of every other player too. Messi found more space and had lesser creative burden, Rakitic dictated the tempo, Alba often burst forward only to receive passes, Coutinho could do the same on the left side, by making runs to open space and also receive passes and be an influence on his own. However, the one worrying aspect might be his discipline when defending, which might be one of the reasons for Valverde taking him off
  • Here is an instance from the second half where Barca set up in a more pragmatic manner to absorb pressure and counter. Dembele might have been waiting to receive the ball as an outlet but some of his positioning in defensive situations has been questionable.


Despite this, it goes without a doubt as to how Barca look better when they have Dembele on the pitch, in an attacking/possession based perspective.He will only get better with time and is well on way to establishing good rapport with his teammates. Barca have a gem in their hand and the French youngster is well on his way in ensuring that he repays his price tag.


Note: All video animations were made using TacticalPad