A succession of injury problems have prevented Benjamin Mendy from getting his career off the ground at Manchester City, but signs of complacency during his time in Manchester have prevented his popularity amongst the supporters from mirroring that which he boasts on social media.
It rapidly became apparent that Pep Guardiola had landed a truly exceptional talent when Mendy first arrived in English football. The Frenchman’s ability to gallop forward at every opportunity and deliver pinpoint crosses into the corridor of uncertainty between the 6-yard line and the penalty spot immediately caught the eye, but a cruel stroke of misfortune saw him sidelined for the vast majority of the season.
The initial promise of his early form at the club remains imprinted in the memory of the City supporters, but his return from injury has been met with further injury problems, questionable defensive positioning and issues with his professionalism away from the field.
What he needs, aside from a clean run without sustaining a new injury problem, is an old-fashioned metaphorical kick up the backside. In the absence of a genuine challenger for his place in the starting eleven and amid a wave of social media popularity Mendy’s vision has been clouded; that’s right, Just Jack, the World Cup and Premier League winner has stars in his eyes.
But the arrival of a new left-back to challenge Mendy upon his return to fitness could be exactly what he needs to transform his career. According to a recent report from ESPN, City are hoping to bring a new left-back to the club in the summer, with Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell one of their top targets.
In terms of City’s defensive recruitment policy in recent years, Chilwell more than fits the bill: he has experience in Premier League football, is English and therefore would contribute to the homegrown quota and has plenty of scope for improvement.
The rapid rate of development both Kyle Walker and John Stones have undergone during their time in Manchester suggests that Chilwell would be well placed to establish himself as England’s first-choice left-back if he followed in Riyad Mahrez’s footsteps this summer.
Chilwell is still something of a raw talent but he is rapidly becoming one of the league’s most coveted full-backs. The first major sign of promise Chilwell showcased arrived in the Champions League when Leicester hosted Atletico Madrid in 2016.
With Leicester trailing 1-0 at half-time and needing three second-half goals to progress, Craig Shakespeare sent Chilwell on to offer width on the left hand side, and his willingness to run directly at the opponent and swing crosses into the box caused the La Liga giants all kinds of problems.
In the aftermath of proceedings, Diego Simeone claimed that Leicester had his side “living in fear”, citing the half-time substitutions as a notable turning point (via ESPN).
“The changes they made were fantastic.”
“They managed to get lots of players down the wings, in order to get the ball in high, lots of crosses to Ulloa which caused us problems.
While Simeone did not directly refer to Chilwell in his post-match analysis, the impact the raw youngster had on proceedings was clear for all to see, with the majority of Leicester’s play coming through him in a pulsating second-half.
That performance pointed towards his tremendous ability to influence the game in the final-third – a natural prerequisite for any player hoping to slot into Pep Guardiola’s system – and he has since proven to be a sturdy defensive talent at Leicester, replacing King Power hero Christian Fuchs as the club’s first-choice left-back.
Chilwell certainly has the ability and temperament to make the step up to a title-challenging outfit, and the impact his presence would have on Mendy’s attitude could be a desirable byproduct of the mooted deal.
Once Mendy returns to full-fitness, there will be no natural left-back within the squad ready to take his place and that could evoke feelings of complacency, but the signing of Chilwell would force him to re-focus and grow into the immense talent he is capable of becoming.
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