By William Hill
16th January 2019
Since signing for Manchester City in the summer of 2017, Benjamin Mendy has been a regular invader.
The social media channels of many football fans have been overrun by the French left-back’s hilarious messages, so much so that his phone usage has caused some friction with manager Pep Guardiola.
Most recently he was seen confusing stewards in Man City’s 2-1 success over Liverpool when charging onto the pitch at the final whistle wearing a bright orange jacket. For more than a brief moment, it appeared he was a second away from a typical pitch invader tackle.
He’s pretty much been an invader in Guardiola’s first team in his 18 months in Manchester too.
After making only eight appearances last season across all competitions because of a lengthy spell out with an anterior cruciate ligament problem in his right knee, he’s not doing much better this term.
Mendy’s currently on 12 appearances, having undergone surgery in November on his other knee. He’s never played more than five fixtures in a row for the club.
Current opinions are that he should be back with the first team by the end of the month and if Man City are to make up their four-point deficit on leaders Liverpool, they’ll need him back as soon as possible. Here’s why:
Mendy and his left-flank invading
To invade, a person or a team needs to penetrate. They need to take possession. They need to go in with attacking intent.
Despite featuring in only nine of City’s opening 22 Premier League matches this season, Mendy still ranks second across the entire top flight for assists among defenders. Only Watford’s Jose Holebas (six) can trump his tally of five.
Without the 24-year-old, City seem incapable of invading from deep, particularly when compared to their main top-four rivals.
Neither Liverpool, Chelsea nor Tottenham have seen fewer assists from their defenders than City’s seven and as already mentioned Mendy is responsible for a handful of these.
The main reason for this lack of assistance relates to an underlying problem at the Etihad with defenders creating chances.
Clearly, given Mendy’s returns, it’s a tactical strategy that Guardiola is happy to employ. Yet, none of the other defensive foot soldiers seem up to the job.
The Citizens’ defenders have created only 43 chances in the team’s 22 league outings. Everton’s Lucas Digne is only two short of this on his own from only 20 appearances.
To put this into context, Spurs have enjoyed 10 assists and 63 chances created in total from their defenders.
Man City and general invading from full-back
Overlapping or underlapping full-backs are commonplace in modern-day football, encouraged to burst into the final third in support of their wide players and feed balls into the box.
City are slightly different to most teams as they tend to rely on traditional wingers in Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling over inverted wide players with a preference for cutting inside.
Sane, in particular, is a goal-creating machine. His 23 assists since the start of last season are five more than any other Premier League player in the same period.
Even so, City are woefully lagging behind the rest of the top four in terms of chance creation from their full-backs.
Mendy is the only member of the defensive ranks to have reached double figures for chances created, with the club’s full-backs providing only 30 between them.
Kyle Walker, Danilo, Fabian Delph and Danilo have played 2,847 Premier League minutes this season, which rounded up equates to 32 matches.
Yet, the quartet have delivered only two assists between them and created 19 chances.
Both of Liverpool’s first-choice full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have both created upwards of 20 chances on their own, as have Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso and Kieran Trippier of Tottenham.
City are a 40/1 correct score bet to hammer Huddersfield 6-1 for the second time this season in their next Premier League game.
Where Mendy ranks against others from the top four
One positive from Mendy’s latest spell on the sidelines is that he should be fit with no fatigue for the business end of the season, with City still battling for silverware on four fronts.
And of the players mentioned at the end of the previous paragraph, Trippier is the only one who churns out chances at a faster rate than Mendy this season.
The England international is providing a scoring opportunity every 54 minutes this campaign, with Mendy doing so every 74 minutes.
For context, on the other flank at right-back, Kyle Walker creates a chance at an average of 161 minutes.
If City are to retain their crown, they will need diversity in terms of their tactics and a range of players capable of scoring and creating chances.
Mendy is a bit of an anomaly within the squad given his capabilities of doing this from defence. The quicker he returns, the better City’s chances of invading and occupying top spot in the Premier League standings in May.