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Can Gerard Deulofeu replace Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona

Tuesday 26th September 2017
It has not all been smooth sailing for Ernesto Valverde in Barcelona. Since his appointment as manager in May, he has seen one star leave for Paris Saint-Germain; his board make some silly transfer decisions, and now club record signing Ousmane Dembele is out with a hamstring injury. When the French winger was carried off against Getafe on Sunday, Gerard Deulofeu was called on from the bench.

After earning his graduation to the first team from Barcelona B team in 2013, Gerard Deulofeu has been loaned out, sold, loaned out again, and then resold to Barcelona in the span of just four years. He was a key player at Everton when on loan under Roberto Martinez, but he failed to make an impression on Ronald Koeman. Deulofeu was loaned out to AC Milan last season, and his record of four goals and three assists in just 18 appearances was enough to convince Valverde of his skills.
Dembele is not expected to dominate La Liga in the same way that Neymar did, but he is surely a part of Valverde's plans. Despite his absence, the Blaugrana manager is convinced he has enough players who can fill Dembele's shoes - Deulofeu seems to be topping his list.

On being asked what he expects from his backup winger, Valverde said, “What I want him to do is to score lots of goals, to provide lots of assists and to work hard on defensive aspects…I want his wing to provide a headache for the opposition and for him to help his full-back… nothing special.”

Dembele's injury could see him sidelined for up to four months. Does Deulofeu have what it takes to justify his manager's faith in him and replicate the Frenchman's effort at Camp Nou?

Deulofeu's attacking prowess

The 23-year old Spaniard holds his best goal record at Barcelona B – where he found the back of the net 27 times in 4,379 minutes (162 minutes per goal). The remaining 16 goals of his career spread across Everton, Sevilla and AC Milan, scoring four goals each per loan spell.

Perhaps, Deulofeu's low shooting rate – only 1.68 per 90 minutes, should be blamed for his low goal return. However, his scoring rate does not measure up to Barcelona's standard. He will need to step up his game considerably to complement Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez on the flank.

The entirety of Deulofeu's career has registered 39 assists, and only five of those came for Barcelona B. Although this is a better record than his scoring rate, his 1.8 key passes per game will hold back his more illustrious team members.

Defensive attributes

While Valverde would want Deulofeu to track back, the Spain international's defensive contribution comes in the form of high presses. He has a knack for avoiding tackles, recording just one tackle per game in 347 minutes played so far this season. Despite his lack of a combative style, he is a speedster with top-notch dribbling skills. But will that be enough to make a name for himself in Barcelona? I don't think so.
To play Dembele's role in Barcelona effectively, Gerard Deulofeu must work on his finishing, as well as his defensive traits. A sudden and drastic improvement should not be expected, but if he shows considerable improvement, he will ensure that he remains Valverde's first choice for a primary backup. However, Deulofeu's long-term future at the Nou Camp is not so bright.
Adebayo Temitope

Temitope, an ardent soccer fan. I may be based in Lagos but I watch as much European football as I can. I've been writing about football for several years, before I joined IRIAW you may have seen my work on The Football Weeks. I'm also a keen music fan

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