Having watched Moussa for the past two-plus seasons at Lyon, what stands out to you the most about him? What are his strengths and/or weaknesses?
Dembélé’s big strength is his ability to consistently find the net. Last season in the Champions League was a good example, scoring twice against Manchester City after coming on as a substitute. Unfortunately for him this season, Lyon have done very well in attack with Memphis Depay, Karl Toko Ekambi and Tino Kadewere. Dembélé lost motivation and that showed, so he needs to be a regular starter and not viewed as some sort of “super sub” to get the best out of his predatory finishing skills.
Dembélé came up through Paris Saint-Germain’s academy before moving to England. Is he sort of viewed as “one who got away” from PSG?
A little. However, there is also recognition that with the quality PSG have boasted in attack for the best part of the last 10 years, he never really stood a chance of getting enough first team minutes to develop. The same has happened to Jean-Kévin Augustin and Odsonne Edouard, with the latter following Dembélé’s path to Celtic. Even today, with the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Moise Kean, it is difficult to see where Dembele would fit.
Ironically, Lyon are firmly in the title race this season, even with Dembélé grabbing just one goal.. What went wrong for him during his final half-season in France?
His main issue has been a lack of motivation, which he explained to Juninho and Jean-Michel Aulas before leaving Lyon. Rudi Garcia’s new tactical setup for this season has seen the likes of Memphis, Toko Ekambi and Kadewere thrive, and it limited him mainly to substitute appearances. Dembélé needed a fresh start and hindsight suggests that Lyon would have been better off selling last summer instead of digging their heels in to keep him.
Dembélé’s already played for Fulham and Celtic in addition to Lyon...do you back him to succeed with Atlético Madrid, in yet another new league?
I do. However, I think that he will need a run of games to rediscover his sharpness. If Diego Simeone can give him that, then Dembélé could play an important role between now and the end of the season. We already saw in last season’s Champions League that he can score goals against the best teams at the highest level.