Guardiola was discussing Mendy’s cavalier positioning, and how one of the most dangerous left-backs in the game kept popping up in the Arsenal penalty area on Sunday afternoon. Even by Mendy’s standards, it was an attacking, entertaining performance, and when City had the ball he was usually one of their most advanced players.
So Guardiola was asked afterwards how he feels on the touchline when his nominal left-back plays as if he is a centre-forward. “That is not good,” Guardiola sighed. “Mendy is Mendy. He is what he is. Sometimes you want to kill him. Sometimes you say ‘wow, what a player we have.’”
There is no doubt that Mendy gives City a new dimension, and after a knee injury ruined last season for him, his return to fitness this year means that he is almost as much of a new addition as Riyad Mahrez. Last season, remember, Guardiola started off with a 3-5-2 designed to get the most out of Mendy. But he got injured in September and Guardiola moved to that lop-sided 4-3-3, generally playing a right-footed midfielder at left-back. Kyle Walker had to provide all the width down the right and while the situation was not ideal, City still managed to scrape together 100 points.
But now Mendy is back City have that option for pace and width from left-back again. “He gives us this extra energy, with Kyle, helping the attack so consistently, it’s so important,” Guardiola said.
Mendy came back into the team for the Community Shield on Sunday, just three weeks after the World Cup final in Moscow. He looked rusty, and his first touch looked like that of a man who was long out of the rhythm of regular training and competing. But he held onto his spot for Sunday’s game at the Emirates.
On Sunday he was far from perfect, losing control of the ball more often than he should have done, and losing opponents. Arsenal’s best first-half chance came when Hector Bellerin burst past Mendy from a standing start. Their best second-half chance came when Mendy lost the ball in midfield. Better teams than Arsenal may punish those little slips and the space that Mendy offers up.
But then the upside that Mendy brings is impossible to ignore. He was involved in both City goals, thanks to those aggressive daring runs that he makes. The first goal came when Sterling cut in from the left, and Mendy made a decoy under-lapping run, dragging Mesut Özil with him, creating the space for Sterling to shoot. The second goal came from Mendy driving forward from inside City’s half, playing a one-two with Sterling, overlapping him, then pulling it back from the by-line for Bernardo Silva to score.
If Mendy can keep providing that much in the final third all year then City will have a new dimension to their play. He just needs to stay fit and iron out the errors in his game. But from his manager Guardiola there was a clear warning of how much Mendy still has to learn. And a suggestion that Guardiola might want Mendy to curtail some of his off-field activities to become the best player that he can be. “Mendy has a lot of things to improve,” Guardiola said. “Hopefully we can convince him to be calm and forget a bit the social media and focus on what he has to do.” Mendy responded on Twitter, promising that he would.
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