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What has gone wrong for Ousmane Dembélé at PSG?

The Frenchman, praised by Luis Enrique, has not started the season well, but PSG will need him to step up on Wednesday against Milan.

París (Francia)
Paris Saint-Germain's French forward #07 Kylian Mbappe (L), Paris Saint-Germain's French defender #26 Nordi Mukiele (2R) and Paris Saint-Germain's French forward #10 Ousmane Dembele (R) attends a team training session at St James's Park stadium in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on October 3, 2023, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League group F football match against Newcastle United. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

In a summer marked by the departures of Leo Messi and Neymar, PSG decided to go for Ousmane Dembélé to compensate for two major losses to the club’s forward line. The Frenchman arrived in the French capital for a fee of €50m ($53m), a significant sum that, for the moment, has not been justified by his performances on the pitch. Luis Enrique, however, maintains full confidence in the player, who he continues to praise in press conferences in the face of constant questions about whether he is the right player to play in a team that aspires to go far in the Champions League this season.

The Asturian head coach rested the winger for the club’s 3-0 win over Strasbourg on the weekend, with one eye on Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday. Against the Rossoneri, PSG will need Dembélé at his best. The former Barcelona man is unpredictable and can sometimes leave fans scratching their heads with his efforts on goal.

Coaches stick by Dembélé

Former coach Xavi, current France boss Didier Deschamps, and Luis Enrique in Paris all value the ease with which he dribbles, his ability to attract opponents and his directness. The numbers, on the other hand, do not correspond to everything he generates on the pitch.

Record with PSG this season

Dembélé has failed to score a single goal this season and has only managed to provide two assists in ten games for the reigning Ligue 1 champions. He has played eight times in Ligue 1 and twice in the Champions League, statistics well below a supposed replacement for Neymar or Messi. Despite this, his importance to Luis Enrique is not in question, as the former Spain boss continues to start him on the right flank.

“He can miss chances, but he has the right attitude. He can improve, yes, but I’m in love with his game. I’m not worried,” Luis Enrique said on Saturday, after beating Strasbourg, when asked about Dembélé. Against Milan, on a flank where Theo Hernández, an attacking full-back, will play, the Frenchman can be decisive in attacking the back four and preventing his international team-mate from flying forward.

Partnership with Mbappé

Another of Dembélé's strengths, perhaps, is his partnership with Kylian Mbappé. Many interpreted the signing of the former Barcelona player as a nod to Kiki, because of their friendship and because he privately reiterated, before sharing a dressing room with Messi and Neymar, that he had been the best player he had ever played with on a pitch.

Dembélé has struggled to work with Mbappé so far this season, but the complicity between the two has remained intact both on and off the pitch. Luis Enrique now has the task of finding a system in which the two can find each other, improve each other and take PSG further in Europe. The first test will be against Milan - semi-finalists in the Champions League last season - in a match that could be a turning point for Les Parisians.