Memphis Depay has been the talk of the hour with Barcelona looking to freshen things up under Ronald Koeman. The deal with Olympique Lyon seems to be restricted only by the regulations, according to which Barcelona need to sell before they can proceed to make any new signings.
With a new era beginning, a transition phase in the squad finally coming to the spotlight, Barcelona is looking to increase their squad depth as the core has declined by age immensely to be confidently depended upon. Koeman has previously criticized the club for not bringing in players to try and replace the core, and now that he is at the club, he is looking to make the changes that Barcelona desperately need.
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Memphis Depay is one such player who is capable of adding to the squad in multiple aspects, tactically. He is no stranger to Koeman, from his time at the Dutch national team and Koeman believes he can bolster the squad. Let’s look at how Memphis Depay can add value to this Barcelona side.
Memphis Depay’s versatility:
If the Dutchman had to be described in just two words, the best-suited words would be talented, versatile. Memphis Depay’s versatility is his biggest strength, as he’s well versed in playing in multiple positions, be it the Left flank, as an attacking midfielder, or as a striker. His athleticism allows him to hold the ball if need be, and allow his teammates to join the attack. Physically strong and pacy, he also has a smart understanding of spaces and uses his wit to trick defenders and create chances.
His time at Lyon has seen him at multiple positions, usually with a lot of freedom. He loves to exploit the width when he can, and prefers to cut in and shoot from half-spaces. When he’s not hugging the touchline, Memphis Depay is usually found advancing through the half-spaces, offering a finishing outlet to other ball carriers.
Mostly deployed as a striker under Rudi Garcia, Memphis Depay has been given a lot of positional freedom, using the flanks and the half-spaces at his own will, with emphasis on his ability to shoot from the edge of the box.
His profile of being such a versatile player looked upon solely in terms of attributes, could add a lot of value to Barcelona. He could be deployed in multiple roles, giving the squad an option to adjust the other players according to the opposition.
Memphis Depay’s ability to provide width:
Although characterized as an inside forward, Memphis Depay can help progress the ball through the left flank, providing the long lost width that Barcelona has been struggling to find ever since Neymar’s departure.
The lack of width has proven to be costly for Barcelona over the past few seasons, forcing Jordi Alba to move higher up the pitch and offer support from the flank, often leaving space behind. With Alba ageing, and Barcelona’s defence often getting caught out without Alba’s defensive contributions, introducing Memphis Depay down the flank would imply bolstering the defence with Alba’s presence since he wouldn’t be required to go unnaturally high up the pitch.
Another argument to be made is, Barcelona relies on numerical superiority to defend, something that they have struggled to implement due to Alba’s advanced position. With Memphis Depay and Alba both having good pace, they can fall back in time in case of counters to create numerical superiority, hence solidifying the defence further.
Memphis Depay’s shot volume and finishing:
Another problem Barcelona has faced upfront is the lack of finishing, with Suarez clearly declining in terms of finishing efficiency. Although Messi has always been the top contributor when it comes to scoring goals, he’s had little to no support in stacking up the numbers.
Memphis Depay is known to have a high shot volume, which could really change things in the way Barcelona attack. We saw Messi drop deeper and take a more creator role, which is understandable, even though painful, due to his age. Barcelona is not short of creators at the moment, with the likes of Coutinho, Messi, Puig, Pjanic, all more than capable of creating chances.
Depay’s high shot volume implies that Barcelona could use him to take chances that are outside the box, not just inside, given his finishing ability. Sometimes it just seems that Barcelona aren’t as aggressive as they once were, and with more shots on goal, they could clearly change that.
Memphis Depay under Koeman: what to expect?
Here’s an amazing article on Koeman’s expected formations and tactics. Memphis Depay has played under Koeman for the Dutch national team, and it’s safe to say that Koeman knows all of Depay’s strengths and weaknesses.
Numbers clearly represent Depay’s versatility, and it gets really interesting when we consider the fact that Koeman likes to have good rotation among his offensive players in his preferred 4-2-3-1, which will most likely be the formation he implements at Barcelona. From what can be read, the positional responsibilities of the players upfront will not be fixed. Keeping this in mind, Depay can be used in multiple ways.
One approach is to play him as an outright 9, and try to exploit his finishing abilities, as he has shown he can be effective as a 9, with positional freedom which he would get anyway from Koeman’s rotations among the offensive players. This can be backed by Leo Messi, Ousmane Dembele and possibly Trincao if Koeman decides to play Messi as a CAM.
Messi could create centrally, while Dembele and Trincao could play to provide width, with Messi orchestrating the attacks. This would require that Memphis Depay sways to the left/ right to create overloads on the sides, at times creating space centrally for Messi to create/finish.
However, all this relies on the assumption that Messi plays centrally. This would require the Argentine to change and adapt as he would be responsible for both the half-spaces, as opposed to his conventional exploitation of the right half-space.
Another possible way Memphis Depay could be deployed is as that of the LAM/LW, only to constantly rotate with the number 9 who could be Griezmann.
A specific advantage to this would be that Depay gets to use the left flank which he loves to exploit. The rotation with Griezmann would mean that Griezmann need not play the role of a conventional 9, which he has not been successful in implementing so far. If we assume that Messi acquires a central role, Dembele could play to the right, his natural, favoured side.
There is a decent chance Messi would slip into a central role as we saw during the friendly against Nastic de Tarragona. Messi took a more central role, allowing Pedri to offer runs and width in the right flank, something Pedri excelled at doing in the last match.
In conclusion, Memphis Depay is a talented player who is versatile enough to fit into multiple roles and multiple systems. His addition to the squad would bolster the left flank specifically, where we have struggled from the lack of width. Koeman has a lot of players with a variety of abilities and needs to decide upon how he would like to implement his Juego de posicion based 4-2-3-1 at Barcelona. The variables are too many to conclude and predict upon plans, but the addition of Memphis Depay surely brings a certainly added dynamism to the club, which has been lacking in the squad for quite some time.