Give Ousmane Dembele a chance to find some consistency, sign Memphis Depay in January or switch to a 4-3-3? How Barcelona could cope without injured wonderkid Ansu Fati for four months… including promoting American starlet Konrad De La Fuente
- Barcelona were dealt a huge blow after Ansu Fati was ruled out for four months
- The Barcelona teenage sensation recently underwent operation on a knee injury
- Fati has scored or assisted 40 per cent of Barcelona’s goals so far this campaign
- But how will Ronald Koeman replace him in the Spanish giants’ starting line-up?
He’s the one thing that Barcelona supporters have had to smile about over the last three months and news that Ansu Fati will now be out for around four months, approximately 30 games, has left a dark cloud over the Nou Camp.
How will they replace a player who seems to possess the combination of spark and efficiency – he has scored or assisted 40 per cent of their goals so far this season – that no one else in Ronald Koeman’s squad has?
Sportsmail takes a look at the various options open to Barca’s Dutch coach…
Barcelona teenage sensation Ansu Fati has been ruled out for four months with a knee injury
There is no question who comes closest to bringing Fati’s skill-set to the table. He doesn’t have the same high ratio of good decision making or the same consistency but Ousmane Dembele has the pace, the unpredictability and the goals.
He always looks more comfortable on the left but 12 of his 22 goals for Barcelona have come with his left and 10 with his right showing his ambidexterity.
Even if he doesn’t switch to Fati’s position on the left it seems the Manchester United target will become more important than ever in terms of stretching opposing defenders with his pace.
Ousmane Dembele has the pace, the unpredictability and the goals to replace Fati
The 26-year-old Lyon forward is the player Koeman wanted when he arrived and the player the now ousted board tried to sign. Once Dembele turned down the chance to move to United the deal was put on hold until January.
When the window reopens the conditions under the new board are likely to be the same – they can only buy if they sell. And if Dembele did not want to leave in the summer when he was out of the team, it seems unlikely he will want to go in the winter when he has become more important.
Koeman had fancied using Memphis Depay as a number nine but he’s happy on the left flank too and could replace Fati if he turns up in the new year.
Barcelona were in hot pursuit of Memphis Depay in the summer and may go back in for him
Konrad De La Fuente
He is only 19 years old but he has been a regular in first team training sessions this season. Koeman loves the Miami born winger and will not shy away from giving him minutes in the absence of Fati.
Right footed, he loves coming off the left flank and going for goal on his favoured foot. Barcelona don’t really need a left-footed left winger because Jordi Alba makes so many runs on the outside from left-back.
If he does become a regular he will join US team-mate Sergio Dest, who recently became the first American to play for Barcelona. Both are now together with the national side ahead of games against Panama and Wales.
Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman is a big fan of 19-year-old winger Konrad De La Fuente
The Portuguese has only started one game, the win over Ferencvaros in the Champions League.
But there have been some impressive displays as a substitute. He prefers to play on the right and come inside on his left foot but he could switch wings.
Francisco Trincao has impressed when coming on for the Spanish giants as a substitute
It’s not where he wants to play. Four of his five starts this season have come in the number 10 position.
Only against Real Madrid, in his most disappointing performance of the season and his last game before injury, has he operated on the left.
For the moment it’s not an option but there are some suggestions he might be fit to return after the international break against Atletico Madrid.
It doesn’t appear likely that Philippe Coutinho will operate on the left in place of Fati
Two goals and one assist from his nine games played so far. Koeman has changed Griezmann’s position several times this season from right attack to number 10 to centre-forward.
It’s in the last of those positions that he looks set to stay unless Koeman begins to show more faith in Martin Braithwaite who has so far barely featured.
That would make Griezmann an unlikely candidate to switch to the left.
Antoine Griezmann is another option for the left wing spot but that also appears unlikely
The 17-year-old started on the left at the weekend when Lionel Messi was placed on the bench.
He is more at home in the tight spaces in the middle of the pitch but he’s versatile and Koeman seems to want to find a place in the team for him regardless of whether it’s to the left, right, or in the centre.
Pedri has shown his versatility for Barcelona and Koeman seems to want to get him in the team
Change of system
Koeman could bin his 4-2-3-1 and switch to a 4-3-3 but that would have more to do with losing faith in his holding midfielders’ capacity to compete than Fati’s injury.
He may decide that whatever combination he uses of Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets and Miralem Pjanic, his team gets overrun in midfield and he needs an extra midfielder.
But that still leaves him needing to replace Fati, who in a 4-3-3 would be first choice on the left.
Koeman has plenty of thinking to do in picking Fati’s replacement after the international break