Atletico Madrid and West Ham right to gamble on out-of-form Dembele

Robin Bairner
Robin Bairner Updated: 17 May 2021 20:41 BST 3 min read
Atletico Madrid and West Ham right to gamble on out-of-form Dembele

For a long period, Lyon’s Moussa Dembele looked like a striker heading to the very top of the game.

Manchester United were thought to be extremely interested in the former France Under-21 prospect. After all, he had gone from strength to strength as he moved from Paris Saint-Germain’s academy, to Fulham, to Celtic and then to Lyon.

Since the summer, though, he has endured a precipitous drop off in terms of his performances.

In the Champions League quarter-final victory over Manchester City, he came off the bench and played a critical role in winning the game for Lyon. Since then, he has endured only frustration, a story told by his FC Ranking, which has fallen from a high of 81 in August to its present value of 68.

As such, interest in him has faded. Atletico Madrid see him as a possible replacement for Diego Costa, showing there is still some top-level attention in his services, but in England, West Ham appear his only option.

Following that trip to the Champions League Final 8, Dembele started the season painfully slowly. He started four of the first five games of the season, but his most telling contribution was a couple of bookings.

Lyon as a whole toiled, too. After sweeping away a poor Dijon side 4-1 in the opening matchday, they went five games without a win.

Dembele was then cast from the starting XI, with summer arrival from Le Havre, Tino Kadewere, favoured.

The Zimbabwe international forward has been one of the revelations of the season in France. He was prolific in the second tier and has proven equally at home in the top flight, scoring seven and creating three in 17 outings. It is the form of a player who cannot be dropped.

Moussa Dembele snapshot

POSITIONCentre forward
STYLEMobile forward

Dembele has been the player to suffer. Lacking confidence in front of goal, he has just a single tally for the season from an xG of 3.26.

Luck has deserted him, too. Shots have come off the woodwork or goals have been disallowed by fine margins. When he has set up a team-mate to score, they have not. All these fine margins have worked to erode his confidence.  

He is now fighting to overcome a broken arm, an injury that threatens a January departure. Dembele is not expected to return until the middle of February.

Lyon, though, are reportedly lining up Leicester’s Islam Slimani as a potential replacement should Dembele be tempted elsewhere.

And the suggestion in France is that the player fancies a change of scene after a degrading of his status.

Lyon would be advised, however, to persist with the former Celtic man if they can. This may be his first career slump, but he surely has the quality to work his way out of it. Furthermore, he is not capricious like Slimani, who is unlikely to take well to being a replacement.

Financially for Lyon, though, any income via a significant loan or transfer fee would be welcome. A combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and the television crisis in France has left clubs all over the country short of income, and even with a contract that expires in 2023, they may be compelled to sell.

If that was the case, Dembele would be a sore loss, even if his recent form might suggest otherwise.

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