World Cup winner Ousmane Dembele has done plenty to both attract and detract teams in recent seasons, including his current employers Barcelona. And according to Spanish publication Sport, that very same double-edged sword of talent plus off-pitch issues has Arsenal and Manchester United interested in the winger. But it also has them cautiously considering a transfer.
REPORT: Arsenal and Manchester United Mull Over Signing Ousmane Dembele
The Good, The Bad, And The Dembele
After one stellar season at Borussia Dortmund in 2016-17 where he scored 10 goals and notched 21 assists, the Blaugrana snatched him up for a cool €105 million. His pace, his directness, and his ability to finish made him rocket up to one of the most sought after players in the world after one season in Germany. And at the time, Barcelona wanted to make a big splash after selling Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain.
Now in his third season, Dembele has collected 19 goals and 17 assists across all competitions since joining Barcelona. And during that time, he also helped France win the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
However, Dembele’s time has been mainly a disappointment, injuries aside. His goal return is nothing more than average for most players. For a €100+ million player, though, it’s a nightmare stat line. In three years, he simply hasn’t set La Liga on fire the same way he did the Bundesliga.
Certainly playing in a new league with a new team in a new country can be difficult for a player. But Dembele has caused his own demise. The French winger has shown up late to training and other team-related activities on multiple occasions. Even before getting to Barcelona, he reportedly trashed a house he was renting to help force through the move.
Dembele has suffered several injuries during his short tenure so far in Spain. However, his off-field behaviour and choices have turned Barcelona off to what he could potentially blossom into. For the Blaugrana, it’s not worth the hassle as he has become the most fined player in Barca history.
And that’s where Arsenal and Manchester United step in.
Arsenal And United Skeptical Approach
Both the Gunners and Red Devils could use an infusion of talent up front with someone like Dembele. On the flip side, both clubs worry about his lack of professionalism and whether that will continue and ultimately hinder his performance.
Arsenal have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up front, although both forwards have seen their names in the rumour mill in recent weeks and will likely leave the club in the next year or so. Club record signing from the summer Nicolas Pepe will be a flop for the Gunners when the season finally concludes. And youngster Eddie Nketieh broke into the XI after Mikel Arteta took over at the Emirates, but it’s difficult to say at this point he’s ready to lead the line and be the star goal scorer needed at Arsenal.
Dembele, assuming he can get his head on straight, would be a huge boost to Arsenal’s attack, especially if they lose Aubameyang and Lacazette.
Manchester United would also benefit from signing Dembele, again assuming his off-field issues won’t pop up. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial certainly work well together interchanging as a centre forward and left-sided forward.
But on the right side of attack, Daniel James‘ hot start did not extend past the opening month of the season. Jesse Lingard continues to disappoint. Juan Mata isn’t getting any younger. And Mason Greenwood isn’t quite ready yet, beyond not being a right-sided winger.
Dembele would certainly fill a hole on the right side and with playmaker Bruno Fernandes pulling the strings from behind, United could see a much stronger attack next year than in recent seasons.
Dembele’s Talents Versus His Problems
Dembele’s upside is no secret. And it goes without saying he’d improve many squads. That of course, though, assumes he’s healthy. At the same time, he’d have to stop playing video games, possibly ditch some of his hanger-on friends, and mature into a true professional.
Because of those doubts, Manchester United and Arsenal are cautiously and prudently combing over all the relevant factors before deciding to buy him. For a player as talented as Dembele, it should be a no-brainer. However, he’s dug himself into many deep holes.
At Barcelona, his problems have exceeded his talents and they’re looking to sell. Arsenal and Manchester United now have to guess as to whether his talents are worth the money and the headaches at the Emirates or Old Trafford.