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Talking Tactics

How Mendy changed Guardiola's game plan

Adrian Clarke 31 Aug 2018
Benjamin Mendy and Sergio Aguero

Adrian Clarke says marauding defender has revised Man City's approach at a price for Leroy Sane

Adrian Clarke looks at tactical battles set to take place in Matchweek 4.

Man City v Newcastle United

Only three matches into the season, it is clear that a fully fit Benjamin Mendy transforms this Manchester City side.

The statistics speak for themselves. The left-back has attempted more crosses from open play than anyone else in the Premier League.

The Frenchman offers power, ambition and width. Mendy has put 25 deliveries into the penalty area, with two leading to goals. 

Most open-play crosses 2018/19
Player Total
Benjamin Mendy (MCI) 25
Trent Alexander-Arnold (LIV) 21
Matt Lowton (BUR) 15

When you compare that output with City in 2017/18, the difference is clear.

While Fabian Delph provided excellent cover in Mendy’s absence, he made just 13 crosses in total across his 21 starts.

Mendy’s presence on the left side has led to a huge change in the set-up of Pep Guardiola’s team.

Last season Delph was used primarily to support a more natural wide man, with Leroy Sane the most frequently selected forward player down that flank.

Pep's dilemma

With Mendy now at left-back, City’s head coach has a dilemma.

If Mendy plays on the same side as Sane, who also loves to go around the outside of defenders, is the balance right?

Guardiola’s selections so far suggest he is unconvinced.

Raheem Sterling, who floats inside as a second striker, has started City’s two away matches this season, opening up space for Mendy.

And, at home to Huddersfield Town, Guardiola used a 3-5-2 shape that left the entire wing to his fit-again Frenchman.

It cannot be an easy decision to change the role of Sane, who contributed 10 goals and 15 assists last season, but it appears Mendy is the preferred option wide on the left.

Replacing De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne was, by some distance, City’s best and most prolific crosser of the ball last season.

The Belgian delivered 163 crosses, 107 more than his nearest team-mate Kyle Walker. Sane was just behind the right-back on 52.

Without the injured De Bruyne, Guardiola will be aware of the potential shortfall in supply from wide areas.

Mendy’s willingness to fire balls into the box therefore increases his value to the team.

Last season, City attacked more down the left side (38 per cent) than down the right (33 per cent).

Now, with Mendy in the side, that dependence has grown to 43.3 per cent down the left and 31.2 per cent down the right across the opening three matches.

On the defensive

It means Newcastle United right-back DeAndre Yedlin is set for a challenging 90 minutes when the Magpies visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

If the American can get tight enough to Mendy to stem the flow of crosses, that will certainly help Rafael Benitez’s side.

Meanwhile, Mendy will aim to increase the success rate of his deliveries, which currently stands at 12 per cent.

It is an area for improvement. But if he maintains his high number of crosses, he is still likely to get his rewards.

Also in this series

Part 2: How Lucas has accelerated Spurs' rapid start
Part 3: Maguire and Gomez showing all-round ability
Part 4: Wide game can get Burnley their first win

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