Chelsea’s battle for Ousmane Dembele to be intense, but necessary

SEVILLA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 21: Ousmane Dembele of FC Barcelona during the La Liga Santander match between Sevilla v FC Barcelona at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on December 21, 2021 in Sevilla Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
SEVILLA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 21: Ousmane Dembele of FC Barcelona during the La Liga Santander match between Sevilla v FC Barcelona at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on December 21, 2021 in Sevilla Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Marina Granovskaia is brilliant at her job. Chelsea’s Director and so-called “Chief Negotiations Officer” has helped the club dominate the transfer market during a period of time in which Financial Fair Play looms large (that is, if it’s actually enforced). Chelsea has constructed a very good squad over the years that is capable of competing for silverware year in and year out, despite the constant chopping and changing of managers. Granovskaia has had a huge part to play in all of this as she’s helped negotiate some incredible deals over the years.

However, for every great deal that the Blues make, there are seemingly a few that leave fans using the three dreaded contractions: would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. They’ve found this out the hard way this summer as sanctions have left them on the sidelines to spectate during the Aurelien Tchouameni transfer saga. This means that Chelsea cannot be a fly on the wall as Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele makes his transfer decision this summer. The Blues need to do everything in their power to win over the forward and secure his services for next season.

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Chelsea needs to fight for Ousmane Dembele’s signature this summer

Chelsea briefly explored the opportunity of signing Dembele back in January before he decided to extend his stay and see out his contract with Barcelona. In hindsight, this is probably the best decision the winger could have made. The arrival of Xavi and a clean bill of health saw him become a first team regular once again. For the first time in years, Dembele found himself dominating La Liga during the back half of the season. The Frenchman’s contributions helped lift the Blaugrana into second place in the league, securing Champions League football for next season.

Despite the Catalan club’s best efforts though, it was not able to sign the 25-year-old to a contract extension before the summer began. The Dembele sweepstakes are now set to kick off with the Blues finding themselves locked in an intense battle for his signature. In addition to Barcelona—who still hasn’t given up hope of re-signing him—Chelsea will be dueling with the likes of Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain for the talented forward’s signature.

Barcelona may get to charm its creative chief for a few more weeks, but once the window opens, it’s actually the Blues who have the biggest pull for Dembele. Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has a special relationship with the winger that dates back to their days with Dortmund. This is one of the many reasons that the German will be interested in a reunion in the English capital. Any potential Dembele arrival would also be on a free transfer, which would allow the Blues to make a quality addition without tapping into this summer’s £200 million war-chest.

The one thing that is more appealing than the free reunion though is the chance to sign a world class creative talent. If Chelsea wants to compete with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City over the course of a 38-game domestic season, it needs to create more—and better—chances. Dembele would undoubtedly help Tuchel’s men do this. Although his goalscoring return is relatively poor this season (two goals in 32 appearances), the Blues have a number of proven goalscorers already in their ranks. The thing they’re missing is chance creation.

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If Chelsea is well and truly in the market for a chance creator then it needs to do everything in its power to ensure Dembele is wearing royal blue next season. He is one of Europe’s best creators and he’s got the numbers to back it up, both on the surface and when taking a deep dive. The two-goal tally mentioned in the previous paragraph may be enough to make some readers weary on bringing him in, but how does 13 assists in the same period sound? Each of those assists came across 21 matches in the Spanish top flight in just over 1,400 minutes. All in all, he averaged a goal contribution every 101 minutes in La Liga last season.

An in-depth look at the numbers tell an even more promising story.

For the sake of comparisons, let’s turn the clock back to the 2018/19 season when Eden Hazard put on the best display from a Chelsea winger that we’ve seen in recent memory. The Belgian blew Dembele away from a goal contributions standpoint with 16 goals and 15 assists in 31 matches compared to the Frenchman’s one goal and 13 assists in 21 games. Before going any further, it’s worth noting that all statistics are pulled from the respective Premier League (’18/19) and La Liga (’21/22) seasons via fotmob.

Their chance creation numbers are shockingly similar, despite Dembele playing about half as many minutes in the league (1,411 to 2,926). Hazard created a total of 18 big chances over the course of the ’18/19 season, tallying about one every 163 minutes. On the other hand, Dembele created 13 big chances this year, one per every 109 minutes. Both were good enough to finish top three in their respective leagues in this category. Taking it down a notch and knocking off the ‘big’ label, Hazard created 98 chances in 31 appearances, coming out to 3.0 per 90 minutes. Dembele created 45 chances in 21 appearances, finishing slightly behind Hazard at 2.9 per 90.

Lastly, the two undeniably brilliant attackers have nearly identical dribbling numbers. Hazard is widely considered one of the best dribblers in Premier League history, which should only serve to put this comparison into context and drive home the point about their creative similarities. The now-Real Madrid winger averaged 4.2 successful dribbles per 90 at a 67.3% success rate. His Catalan counterpart averaged 3.8 dribbles per 90 at a 65.6% success rate.

This is not all to say that one player is better than the other either. At the end of the day, Chelsea is in dire need of someone who can create more chances. The Blues have been lacking a dominant creative force in attack since Hazard’s departure in the summer of 2019. Dembele’s ability to almost mirror the former Chelsea man’s stats—combined with his age and free transfer—will see  suitors lining up for him over the next few weeks. The Blues need to ensure they do everything in their power to cut to the front of the queue and win Dembele over as he is the answer to some of the team’s biggest issues currently.

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Do you think Dembele is a good fit for Chelsea? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!