FT Impact Player Series: Is Man City's Ben Mendy, Superhuman?
We always like to pause and zoom in a little on some unique talents in the game today. Today, we are crossing over to the blue-half of Manchester and think out loud about the incredible talent that is Benjamin Mendy, a French defender with African roots, Senegal to be specific. Let us briefly look at three things that Benjamin Mendy gives the Premier League champions, Manchester City. You will give a ruling at the end on whether the 24-year-old is human or an alien meant to be playing some unknown galaxy football.
Energy, pace and power
Mendy rose to prominence in the 2016/17 season where he was a key defensive component of the young Monaco team that won the French Ligue 1 and reached the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League. His switch to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City the following season for £52 million pounds, a then record move for a defender, was part of the infamous exodus of talent from Monaco with the likes of Bakayoko, Mbappe and Bernardo Silva also leaving for big monies. In particular, Guardiola’s acqusition of Mendy for that kind of price seemed ridiculous at the time especially given the fact he had likewise spent big on other fullbacks in the form of Kyle Walker and Danilo - but he sure had a plan and how dare we questioned the wisdom of the Spaniard. The record 100 Premier League points amassed in a title winning campaign for Manchester City was the result. Of course we did not see a lot of Mendy in this record-breaking season because of the ligament injury that sidelined him for the greater part of the season. Now that he is back, most are starting to appreciate why Pep brought him to the club. No one owns the left flank of the pitch like Ben does. He literally runs up and down that channel for the full ninety minutes without showing any signs of exhaustion. His built body allows him to shove most if not all opponents with ease and his carefree personality even shows up on the pitch in form of the risks he takes upfield. Do not be mistaken, Mendy is no dribbler or slick like “modern full-backs” such as Marcelo, Jordi Alba, Alex Sandro or Dani Alves. It’s simply raw energy, pace and power with a defined ability to make pin-point crosses into the box. Think of him as a really accurate bulldozer that does not just go through stuff senselessly.
Even though Manchester City brought only Riyad Mahrez in the summer, with Mendy back, they are looking anew. Guardiola’s tactical tweaks have seen Ben Mendy playing as hybrid and left-back /central midfielder, something we are not sure has ever existed. In his first four premier league appearances, Mendy has provided three assists, made 25 crosses into the box, created two big chances and was also heavily involved in two other goals. Yes, its no cheap talk here - Mendy is real.
A cool kid
Besides the 2018 world cup winner’s footballing abilities, Ben Mendy is what everyone would wish for in a team’s dressing room. Within days of arriving at Guardiola’s camp, the Manchester All or nothing documentary reveals that the Frenchman was already cracking some jokes and teasing his new teammates in beginner’s English spoken with his French accent. A personality truly unique to fearless champions. He is one of the loudest guys in the dressing room, perhaps the most active football player on social media who always has one or two things to laugh about. You may remember the person in jeans who uncomfortably ran onto the pitch to celebrate Raheem Sterling’s last minute winner against Southampton in the 2017/18 EPL season, that was injured Benjamin Mendy. He even started taking selfies with Sterling afterwards in front of cameras. That’s just the way Ben is, serious and unserious at the same time. Many people like him off-the pitch and he is simply iresistable on it, how can it be? Is he human and perhaps the 21st century definition of perfection.
Most team’s battles are won 60% off the pitch and 40% on it, with Ben Mendy adding value both ways - France and Manchester City really have a lot to be thankful of. Just ask Olivier Giroud, a striker who was on a goal drought stretching back to the pre-world cup fixtures, Mendy came very late on for France as a substitute in their recent UEFA Nations League clash with the Netherlands and saved the day. Courtesy of a delightful Mendy cross.