It came as a rather surprising move to us when Moussa Dembele chose to join Celtic upon the expiry of his contract with Fulham at the beginning of the season. What good could come out of a move to a league that has been deprived of its quality in recent years and has only functioned as cannon fodder for other European heavyweights in continental competitions?
Four months of setting the Scottish Premier League on fire has served us a reminder of what a move to a seemingly smaller club can do for a talented youngster. Dembele has been amongst the goals at the club and was pivotal to his side eking out a point against Premier League heavyweights Manchester City in the Champions League, where he scored 2 goals to help end Pep Guardiola’s winning streak at the club.
In this segment, we profile the French youngster, his strengths and weaknesses for our readers.
Born in Pontoise, France on 12th July 1996, Dembele joined Paris Saint-Germain as an 8-year-old and progressed through their youth level. While he did with the PSG youth sides, it was essentially with the national U-16 team that he truly caught the eye of a number of European clubs.
As PSG were on a spending spree, fuelled by their rich new owners, Dembele realised that he would find chances harder to come by in Paris and was more than willing to move to Fulham in 2012.
While he had to go through the youth set up at Craven Cottage, he was soon knocking at the doors of the first team and was duly rewarded with his Premier League debut against West Ham in November 2013.
The lack of quality in the line-up coupled with the club’s relegation at the end of the 2013-14 season meant Dembele was soon a regular in the Fulham squad and went on to represent them in 61 appearances across all competitions in the next 2 seasons before making the switch to Celtic Park at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Strengths and Style of Play
The French youngster’s primary strength is his ability in front of the goal. Despite his young age, he is a player who can find time and space in the box regardless of the presence of numerous defenders and has the natural instincts of a goal scorer.
While the goals have flown for the player this season, having already found the back of the net on 12 times in 17 appearances, it is his efficiency in front of the goal that has impressed many, as he more often than not converts the chances that come his way.
Dembele is quick and uses that trait to great effect to pop up in the right spots and constantly keeps opposing defenders on their toes. Also possessing a terrific leap, Dembele has been as big a threat in the air as he has been on the ground and has showcased the all round ability to become one of the most dreaded strikers in Europe.
While it is primarily his goal scoring ability that has hogged the limelight, Dembele has in the past, showcased shrewd creative instincts and can link up play in and around the box to help his teammates get into advantageous situations.
The fact that he was amongst the top 3 creators at Fulham last season, despite the presence of apparent quality is a statistic that serves the player’s credentials in the right stead.
Despite being one of the highly rated youngster, Dembele, like any other young player comes with his own deficiencies and the most apparent of the same has been his inconsistency.
While it can often be deemed as a result of lower quality around him, the player has a tendency to go missing in crunch situations and we are sure consistency is a trait he will be working on going forward.
Another aspect of his game that he will definitely need to work upon is his tidiness in possession and passing, which have been mediocre so far. However, the game time being afforded to him at Celtic and the presence of Brendan Rodgers, a man who can turn talented youngsters into superstars is expected to weed out these apparent weaknesses.
Quotes on Player
Jamie Carragher has been impressed with the player’s attributes so far and had this to say in his column in the Daily Mail, "He only cost £500,000 from Fulham and with Rodgers’ background in developing young players, there is no question Dembele is in the right place to prosper. He only had to see Raheem Sterling at Parkhead to see how Rodgers handles young talent.
“Already the 20-year-old looks like an absolute bargain and, if he keeps scoring at the rate he has been, Celtic are going to struggle to keep him, but potential suitors will have to be wary: if Celtic do eventually sell him, then it is going to be for a fee 20 or 30 times more than their initial outlay."
With the season and his stint at Celtic still young, a lot is already expected from the youngster and it’s easy to see why. Should he keep his head on his shoulders and work on improving his abilities, we see no reason why he cannot become one of the top strikers in the world.