In Barcelona’s last six matches, only two goals have been scored by players other than Lionel Messi. This dependence on Messi remains even after spending nearly half a billion dollars on Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, and Ousmane Dembele over the past five years. And while Messi can still sometimes do it almost all on his own, like in yesterday’s 4-2 win at Sevilla, Barcelona having a successful finish to the season may hinge on whether their. supporting trio in attack can finally perform closer to their potential on a consistent basis.
Of the three, Philippe Coutinho has been the most disappointing this season. The Brazilian was quite good for the first 7-8 months of his Barcelona career, but his form has strangely fallen of a cliff since returning from injury in November. His ability, which he proved last season, is unquestionable, but he is now underwhelming in nearly every performance. After starting the match in Lyon on the bench, Coutinho once again failed to take advantage of his opportunity when given the start against Sevilla. While Coutinho will still be in contention to start the midweek Clasico, drastic improvement is needed for him to keep his place upon Arthur’s imminent return.
While Coutinho has been consistently bad for much of this season, Luis Suarez has been the most inconsistent of Barcelona’s supporting cast. For the first five months of the season, he was undoubtedly among the best strikers in the world. However, since a congested run of fixtures in early February, his form has suddenly taken a nosedive. His display against Sevilla was an upgrade from the catastrophe at Lyon, but the variance and quality in his performances still seems heading in the wrong direction. He was photographed icing his right knee after Saturday’s win, so perhaps he needs to be used more sparingly going forward in order to recapture the early season performances that Barcelona desperately needs from him.
Despite entering the campaign under the most scrutiny, Ousmane Dembele has been Barcelona’s most consistent attacking threat after Messi. Injuries have disrupted his season, especially in recent weeks, but the French winger has made himself an indispensable part of Barcelona’s starting eleven when available. He has shown glimpses of that in the last two matches, but he is still yet to rediscover the form he was showing before the ankle injury against Leganes. After barely featuring in last season’s Champions League campaign, it is crucial for Barcelona’s chances that Dembele produces his best this time around.