It feels like an excuse straight from the Arsene Wenger handbook, but following a summer transfer window in which Manchester City made only one first-team addition in the form of Riyad Mahrez, Benjamin Mendy genuinely feels like a new signing for Pep Guardiola’s side.
After missing almost the entire of last season through injury, you’d be forgiven for thinking the France international is actually City’s Twitter manager – something Guardiola even alluded to after the match, stressing the need for Mendy to focus less on social media and more on improving his game.
“Mendy is Mendy. Sometimes we want to kill him and sometimes you think wow what a player we have. He gives us energy. Mendy has a lot of things to improve and hopefully we can convince him to forget a little bit the social media and improve a few things.”
Pep Guardiola on Benjamin Mendy
And amid all of Mendy’s ‘Shark Team’ hijinks, it had become easy to forget what a fantastic talent the former Monaco man is. Against Arsenal on Sunday, it was his galloping runs down the left that proved the difference, exploiting Mesut Ozil’s unwillingness to track back by assisting both goals in the 2-0 win – first from Raheem Sterling and then Bernardo Silva.
That’s not to say Mendy’s performance was without flaws. While his mixture of bullish brawn and deft passing proved so destructive going forward, the 24-year-old looked less comfortable when inverting into midfield – a common full-back ploy for Guardiola – and defending at his own end. Hector Bellerin left him for dead a few times, in one instance creating enough room to take a shot at Ederson.
But Mendy’s potential in this City team is already clear. For how good Fabian Delph was last season in deputising the six foot full-back, the midfielder by trade didn’t offer the same width and dynamism on the counter-attack.
That influence from left full-back was perhaps the only ingredient Guardiola’s record-breaking side lacked in attack last season but without spending an extra penny in the summer, City now have Mendy to provide it.