There is hope. Ousmane Dembele played his best game for Barcelona so far against Malaga on Saturday. There are those who say playing against the bottom ranked side with 10 men is not proof of anything, but he looked more confident.
L'Equipe published on March 13 a big piece about Dembele, saying his moment has arrived and it's time for him to take a jump up. A jump that could come in the Champions League against Chelsea. Many are saying he should start in attack with Messi and Suarez. In their report, the French paper say that after his bad performance in the Catalan Super Cup against Espanyol, the criticism rose up.
Dembele, who appears timid and until now has not had much of a good relationship in the dressing room beyond Umtiti and Digne, his French team-mates, was obliged to take a step forward. And it's true he did that at La Rosaleda.
This improvement was met with praise in the mixed zone. Rakitic and Coutinho hailed him, with the Croatian saying "you have to give him time". He needed that after his hamstring tear in September against Getafe which spoiled his adaptation to his new side. It was a tough blow that he is recovering from bit by bit. L'Equipe say he's scared it could happen again, and that's affected his usually explosive game. Barca staff have taken on personalised work with him so he can be 100% free and liberated to play his natural game. The French paper say that Messi's last minute departure was helpful too, so he could play in his natural role, right wing in a 4-3-3. The staff think he can still improve on many things, in terms of his defensive work and decision making in the final metres.
His former youth coach at Rennes, Julien Stephane, said: "He can use his best characteristics in a 4-3-3 because he's covered behind by an interior and that liberates him from defending a bit. He can show all his qualities in attacking transitions. 4-4-2 means he has to play nearer the full-back and work harder."