The left-back has proven to be a potent weapon for the defending champions so far as his manager fights to keep him out of trouble off the pitch
When Pep Guardiola has a point to make, he will invariably find a way of getting it across.
Throughout his career, and certainly during his time with Manchester City, he has been invited to praise one of his players but instead taken his opportunity to point out that they are not doing enough.
It is one of the most striking aspects of Amazon’s ‘All or Nothing’ documentary.
Guardiola usually knows what to say within the confines of the dressing room, but he does not mind filtering slithers of his discontent out into the public domain via his press conferences, either.
He hailed Sergio Aguero as “one of the best in the world” on Sunday but only after two years of telling the Argentine to work much harder. The Catalan’s disappointment with Leroy Sane’s efforts in pre-season have come to the fore last year and this.
Benjamin Mendy is the latest player to come into the firing line.
“Mendy is Mendy. Sometimes you want to kill him. Sometimes you say, ‘Wow, what a player we have!’” Guardiola said after win at Arsenal a fortnight ago. “He gives this extra energy with Kyle [Walker], helping the attack so consistently.
“But Mendy has a lot of things to improve. Hopefully we can convince him to be calm and forget a bit the social media and focus on what he has to do.”
Mendy, in turn, has said he will stop using his phone around City’s training ground.
Yet it is not just his use of social media that needs to change. Mendy was fined for turning up late to training in the run-up to the season opener at Arsenal, and that was far from the first time he has been the last one to join a session or a tactical meeting.
Perhaps more tellingly, Guardiola has seen fit to make the Frenchman move out of his city centre apartment and into a place on the outskirts of Manchester.
There are concerns at City that Mendy and his close group of friends find it particularly easy to get into trouble, so steps have been taken to limit the number of off-field distractions available to them.
There have been incidents that have raised concerns in the recent past, although none that have been deemed serious enough for Guardiola to drop Mendy from his matchday XI.
And if Mendy’s focus away from the pitch is an ongoing concern behind the scenes, there can be few complaints or concerns about his performances so far this season.
The 24-year-old was hailed by sources close to Guardiola as the key man in City’s 2-0 win at Arsenal, his understanding of a hybrid left-back/central midfield/attacking midfield role helping to unsettle the Gunners through the middle and on the wing.
Given his long-term injury last season he has been regarded as the cliched ‘new signing’ for the current campaign but in that game at the Emirates he did not just provide the rampaging runs forward that City had to do without last season, he added a completely new dimension to their game.
Guardiola’s words of warning after that match did not immediately hit home but against Huddersfield last Sunday, Mendy was again one of City’s star performers.
He was deployed in his traditional attacking left-back role, but again his understanding of his duties allowed City to try a completely different formation; Bernardo Silva tucked in from the right-hand side, often leaving little by the way of width on that flank, meaning Mendy’s positioning was crucial to Guardiola’s set-up.
HIs understanding and movement has helped City evolve their tactics this season and, on the ball, he has shown just how dangerous he can be: he has created five chances from open play in two Premier League games – only two players, David Silva (six) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (seven), have more.
He has three assists to his name already but if we stray a little from the cold, hard numbers, it would be fair to say he has had a big hand in five of City’s eight goals this season.
The two assists at Arsenal and his cross for Aguero’s hat-trick goal against Huddersfield are undisputed, but his 60-yard run from his own half led to the loose ball from which Gabriel Jesus fired in on Sunday, while Ben Hamer could not handle a typically wicked cross from the left, spilling the ball into Aguero’s path for a simple tap-in.
Guardiola is concerned that Mendy’s knee injury will make muscle problems a distinct possibility when midweek games become the norm, and Fabian Delph, who is yet to make a match-day squad this season, certainly still has a role to play.
But as the City boss tries to come up with ways to evolve his side and even improve upon a 100-point title win, Mendy is set for a crucial role – as long as he behaves himself.
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