Although only featuring for a little over forty minutes in the tournament, Benjamin Mendy was a member of France’s World Cup winning squad. Long-term injuries last season prevented him from making a considerable difference in City’s record-breaking campaign. However, a full 90 minutes against Arsenal on Sunday was enough time for the 24-year-old to catch the eye of some of us watching on.
Arriving from Monaco in July 2017 as the most expensive defender at the time (the fee reported to be around £52 million), Mendy held the attention of many Premier League followers around the country, but an unfortunate knee injury in September meant that the Frenchman was ruled out for the majority of the season.
Although not able to show his worth on the pitch, Mendy was certainly not altogether absent from the scene. With his social media activity, he was able to convince the fans that he was an important asset off the pitch. As he returned to fitness, he picked up some game time towards the end of last season, impressing as a substitute in a handful of City’s final fixtures.
Manager Pep Guardiola has made it clear that it’s time for Mendy to try and drag himself away from social media and concentrate on his performances and the mentality that comes with it.
The left-back has proved that making a real impact in a match has never been beyond his capabilities. Although his performance on Sunday left some questions unanswered about his defending stature, his attacking threat was certainly a constant problem for Arsenal. His relentless pace down the wing earned him assists for both goals, and his movement off the ball often created space for Sterling to exploit.
His second assist for Bernardo Silva’s goal required astute awareness. He looked to see where the space was in the box, crossed the ball into that area, and trusted Silva to do the rest.
Manchester City are an attacking team no doubt, but even the best of the best need to defend. Although left-back is the position with the biggest lack of secondary candidates at Man City, there are others on the team that could fill Mendy’s shoes if needed. We saw a few sloppy errors from the Frenchman on Sunday that luckily were not capitalised on by Arsenal. Iron these mistakes out in the next few games and Manchester City will have a top-quality full-back on their hands.
There’s a reason that Guardiola spent so much on Benjamin Mendy, and we are beginning to get a glimpse of that reason. As other Premier League teams learn to keep tabs on the full-back, it will be interesting to see if he adapts to become a formidable attacking force, and whether he can learn from those around him to develop into a solid defender as well.