It’s the million dollar question at the Camp Nou, and the answer is not simple. But Barcelona have begun to construct a hypothesis to explain Ousmane Dembélé’s susceptibility to injury. The France international is expected to train on Monday after another spell on the treatment table, with Barcelona hoping that he will be fully fit to face Chelsea in the Champions League. Dembélé already missed much of the first half of the season with a hamstring injury.
The innocence of youth
In the first instance, his youth is a factor. At 20-years-old, he lacks the maturity to read his own body and know when to stop. Ernesto Valverde gave Dembélé a public dressing-down for the manner in which he injured himself during a match at Getafe in September, and suggested that a more experienced player would not have made the same error. He didn’t listen to his body. He wasn’t at 100 percent but he wanted to play through discomfort.
Absence of a pre-season at Dortmund
There are other reasons behind Dembélé’s sensitivity. The most important one is that he was unable to compete a full pre-season because he was trying to force through a move from Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona. One of his tactics to do so was to miss training. He had to complete a mini pre-season against the clock in Catalonia, which would have been made harder by his new-club nerves.
A new role at Barcelona
Differing playing styles is another contributory factor. Dembélé doesn’t play in the same way at Barcelona as he did in Germany. His responsibilities have changed, and so has the stress on his body. At Dortmund he was the point of reference for the team in attack. He did not have many defensive responsibilities. Now, at Barça, he is expected to track back and contribute in defense, a role that demands greater physical exertion.
The mental aspect also comes in to the equation. Dembélé spent three months on the sidelines and was forced in to the operating theatre. It is possible that this episode had a psychological effect on the player, causing him to play with fear of another injury. Within the club, however, they insist that he is a mentally strong player.