On deadline day, Lyon secured the signing of Celtic’s 22-year-old French-Malian forward Moussa Dembélé for a reported figure of €22 million; the most Lyon have spent on a single player since Yoann Gourcuff arrived from Bordeaux in 2010 – also for €22 million. With Spanish-Dominican forward Mariano Díaz re-joining Real Madrid, Les Gones needed to sign a forward to supplement the attacking capabilities of the likes of Memphis Depay, Nabil Fekir and Bertrand Traore.
What kind of player is Moussa Dembélé?
Dembélé is an extremely balanced and well-rounded forward – he has no stand-out strength but is a talented finisher, dribbler and passer of the ball, with enough pace to help lead the charge for counter-attacks when called upon. He is right-footed and, although capable of doing some damage with his left, usually likes to get the ball on his right foot before passing or shooting.
Dembélé enjoys drifting out wide, usually on the left, dragging defenders with him before cutting inside and delivering a pass or a shot on goal. His fantastic ball control means that he is perfectly capable of turning instantaneously, leaving defenders on his trail – or can pick up balls in the box and bring them down enough to work some magic in the final third.
Naturally gifted at finding space, Dembélé often finds himself unmarked in the opposition box and both his strong finishing and heading accuracy means that, more often than not, space for Dembélé means a goal for his team. He is by no means a selfish player and will often come near to a teammate who is under pressure, in order to free him up and allow the attacking move to continue.
Dembélé is around 183cm tall and weighs 73kg, with the strength to hold off defenders when making runs forward. This, combined with his close control and dribbling, makes him both a formidable goal-scoring threat but also one apt at creating opportunities as well.
At just 22, Dembélé has the time to work on his skill and, if we are to pick out particular weaknesses in his game, both his left-foot and perhaps decision making could do with some work, as he will often keep going until it is physically impossible for him to move further forward with the ball; missing out on better opportunities to pass and supply a teammate.
How will Moussa Dembélé fit in at Lyon?
Under Bruno Génésio, Lyon have been playing, primarily, a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Fekir as a central attacking midfielder and the likes of Bertrand Traore, Memphis Depay and, formerly, Mariano occupying the three other attacking roles. Lyon also have Martin Terrier available to them; he signed from Lille in January, but spent the second half of last season on loan at Strasbourg.
With Mariano gone, Dembélé will likely occupy the striker role in the 4-2-3-1 with, in a strongest case scenario, Fekir just behind him and Depay and Traore on either wing. One of Mariano’s duties in Lyon’s attack was to try and create space for Fekir by dragging the oppositions’ defenders out of position. Dembélé’s instinctiveness to drift out wide and cut in will help serve this purpose excellently, with the Frenchman likely to aid the likes of Fekir by making runs to the by-line and firing passes across the face of goal. This is what makes Dembélé arguably a better option than Mariano, who was not known for his passing ability and, therefore, Dembélé is a better option for boosting the teamwork amongst the Lyon attack.
Dembélé’s pace and dribbling ability make him an excellent addition to Lyon’s quick transitions from defence to attack when the team looks to hit the opposition on the counter.
In all, Dembélé is an excellent addition to this Lyon side and one which could almost certainly spur the belief amongst some that the team is talented enough to challenge big-spenders Paris Saint-Germain at the top of Ligue 1; if not this season, then in the coming years.