Dembele is going nowhere: Five things learned from Barcelona’s Super Cup win v Sevilla

Dembele is going nowhere: Five things learned from Barcelona’s Super Cup win v Sevilla

On a wild night in Tangier, Barcelona came from behind to beat Sevilla 1-2 in the Supercopa de España

The win gives the Blaugrana a dream start to the season and showed us a side ready to pick up the baton from where they left off last season and take their game to another level. What did we learn?

1. Dembélé is going nowhere

All summer long, people have been questioning the worth of Ousmane Dembélé and whether or not the French winger has a future at Barcelona. People genuinely felt that his rough first season in Catalunya could lead to him being forced out of the Camp Nou.

It’s probably a lot harder to find people who think like that now.

Dembélé returned from his holidays early (putting paid to ideas that he’s unprofessional) and has put the work in this pre-season. He got the start against Sevilla and was absolutely superb. Dembélé played on the left and moved with purpose, he dribbled and passed with precision when he had the ball and constantly offered a magnificent outlet when he didn’t, making incessant runs into the channels.

Most of his good work was spoiled by the shoddy play of his striker, but what was so promising was the understanding he was developing with Leo Messi. More promising than that was when he absolutely thundered in Barcelona’s winning goal with just 12 minutes left on the clock. This was a truly special strike and it was the perfect climax to a great performance, and a night where he truly established himself as an FC Barcelona player.

2. The Value of VAR

VAR was arguably as big of a breakout star of the 2018 World Cup as Kylian Mbappé was. The technology saw more penalties awarded than every before and really ended up effecting the way that the players operated in the game. It helped to clean things up, and as a result the Spanish authorities decided they would use it in La Liga.

Today we saw the first instance of VAR proving its worth. When Pablo Sarabia whipped the ball into the back of the net after just 10 minutes to give Sevilla a shock lead, the referee originally ruled it out for offside. But VAR stepped in and cleared up that Sarabia was in fact onside, and thus the goal stood.

On an afternoon when the Premier League saw two major incidents where VAR would have overturned incorrect decisions (Benjamin Mendy wrestling Shkodran Mustafi to the ground and Sadio Mané second very offside goal) one has to question the wisdom of England’s top flight ignoring this powerful piece of technology.

3. Magical Messi’s Milestones

Leo Messi was the best player on the park against Sevilla. This isn’t a surprise really, he nearly always is, but the fact this was his first action of the season after returning from holiday and the sheer breadth of his brilliance really does deserve recognition.

Messi was evading Sevilla markers, darting away from tackles, and slinging passes forward as though he had been playing for two months and was in peak rhythm. It was absurd how often he plunged a dagger into the heart of Sevilla with some outrageous passes, only for his team-mates to stop short of making the killing blow with their useless final third play.

Messi managed to influence the match still. It was his glorious free-kick that spilled off the post (and goalkeeper) for Piqué to finish for the equaliser. And it was his pass that set Dembélé into the space he needed to launch his rocketshot into the back of the net. Messi capped the day by lifting his first trophy as full-time captain and becoming Barcelona’s most decorated player as a result. 33 trophies and counting.

4. Valverde’s ideas take shape

You know how Queen’s set at Live Aid was a medley of their greatest hits? Well the Spanish Supercup was a medley of his tactical ideas for the 2018/19 season as he had his Blaugrana side cycle through different shapes and systems.

The side began in a 4-3-3 with Messi on the right and Rafinha playing on the right of midfield offer cover as Nelson Semedo rampaged forward to own the right flank as Messi drifted centrally whilst Dembélé was a true outlet on the left (Semedo put in an incredible display and will surely be the starter this season).

Then later in the second half, Messi moved to false nine and Suárez shifted to the right in what was a clear precursor to the side playing a 4-3-3 false nine, where one would expect Malcom to start in place of Suárez.

Finally, the last shape was a 4-2-3-1, where Messi pulled centrally as a no. 10 and Ousmane Dembélé came over to the right and Coutinho pushed up onto the left. This system looks like it could be the most useful for Barça as it gives Suárez the least ground to cover and puts Messi at the literal heart of the side, instead of just the figurative one.

5. Suárez looks shot

Luis Suárez started last season very slowly. So slowly in fact that he only started playing well in late December. Then by mid-February he was back to being terrible. It’s always the case that players who rely on athleticism and physicality suffer a decline after they turn 30 but in Suárez’s case the drop-off has been incredibly dramatic.

Suárez was comfortably the worst player on the pitch, and yes that includes Wissam Ben Yedder whose last minute penalty makes Gareth Southgate ’96 look like Antonin Panenka ’76. He could barely control the ball, he certainly couldn’t shoot with any great accuracy (or even power) and his passing was a near constant source of possession… for Sevilla.

Obviously he will improve but last season showed that even an improved Suárez has a limit to his performance and the Blaugrana faithful will be desperately hoping their club signs another striker or that Malcom or Arturo Vidal settles in so quickly that Ernesto Valverde and drop Suárez and play a 4-3-3 false nine as the team’s default formation.

Luis Suárez is going to be a big problem for Barcelona.