Dembele signing will help Messi & Barca against defensive teams like Alaves

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The Catalans came through with a 2-0 win on the road, but their struggles in tight spaces highlighted the importance of bringing in the French forward


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It was comfortable in the end. For the second weekend running in La Liga, Barcelona completed a 2-0 victory, this time at Alaves after beating Betis at Camp Nou last Sunday.

But, once again, there was the feeling that Lionel Messi needs more help in attack.

Soon, the Argentine attacker will have it, of course, after Barca paid an initial €105 million to bring in France forward Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund on Friday as a replacement for Neymar.

The trip to Mendizorrotza came too soon for Dembele to make his debut, but the pattern of the game did highlight the importance of bringing in a new forward to take some of the load off Messi.

With Neymar departed and Luis Suarez sidelined, Messi started alongside Gerard Deulofeu and Aleix Vidal, a front three that will leave most Barca fans somewhat cold after three spectacular seasons of the MSN trident.

Alaves Barca graphic

Against an Alaves side with all 10 outfield players packed tightly within a 30-metre space in order to frustrate Barca's attacks, it took time for Ernesto Valverde's team to break through. And it was Messi, unsurprisingly, who made the difference.

The 30-year-old, who had hit the woodwork three times against Betis, saw a penalty saved late in the first half, but did open the scoring in the second with the aid of a slight deflection. He also added the second after a poor defensive error by Alexis.

Barca went on to have even more chances as the game opened up after that, but their difficulties in carving open a team defending deep and with many players behind the ball will be a slight concern.

Dembele should help with that. Like Neymar, the 20-year-old has pace and great dribbling skills. He is also effective in tight spaces and should help Barca to stretch defences in a way Deulofeu and Alcacer did not on Saturday. 

Lionel Messi Barcelona

Ousmane Dembele Borussia Dortmund

"Dembele gives us width, something we have lost and something we needed," Valverde said in the pre-match press conference on Friday.

"He can play on the left or the right, or even through the middle. He is quick and he is technically good. We hope he's going to add a lot to the team. We're really excited to have him. We have a lot of hope deposited in him."

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Dembele should be available to make his debut in the Catalan derby at home to Espanyol after the international break and could go straight into the team.

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So, although Barca have won their first two league games with relative ease, the Frenchman should give their attack the fluidity it has been lacking since Neymar's move to Paris Saint-Germain. And, over the course of a long season, that could be worth many points to the Bluagrana in La Liga.

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