It was May, the end of Pep Guardiola’s first season in English football, and journalist Martí Perarnau had told Argentinian newspaper La Nacion that “one of the aspects in which City must improve is character, personality, competitive courage.”
Perarnau, the author who penned the behind-the-scenes account of Guardiola’s first year in charge of Bayern Munich, Pep Confidential, has a close relationship with the Catalan and has made an effort to embed himself in Manchester City’s social media conversations, conducting interviews with us here at City Watch and elsewhere. Any information from him, with Pep’s approval of course, is likely to have come from the horse’s mouth.
Character, personality and competitive courage were among the toxins in the 2016/2017 season where we under-performed. One problem was that the individuals ordinarily tasked with motivating the team were the older members of the squad, capable of unleashing a rallying cry but physically unable to simultaneously drive us up the pitch. The Pablo Zabaleta’s and Joe Hart’s of the squad were either watching from the bench or from a TV somewhere in Turin, and it left the side lacking in soul. There was, therefore, a necessity for our summer business to centre around acquiring personality as well as ability.
Benjamin Mendy, more than any of the club’s eight summer additions, ticks both boxes. The Frenchman has made a huge impact both on and off the pitch, entertaining the supporters with his happy-go-lucky social media persona where videos of Bernardo Silva taking a leak and renditions of the famous ‘Yaya-Kolo’ song make weekly appearances, and more importantly demonstrating the pace and attacking intent us we’ve been missing at left full-back for the last five seasons.
The former Monaco defender has played only two games for his new club but was one of the key individuals in Saturday’s 5-0 drubbing of Liverpool. The 23-year-old delivered no fewer than six fizzing crosses into the penalty area with an explosive style reminiscent of Aleksandar Kolarov’s. The £50m man claimed his first assist of the season in the 77th minute of the game, angling a perfectly-weighted ball into the feet of Leroy Sané who netted City’s fourth.
There should be many more to come. Mendy has already forged a strong relationship with the German winger who he’ll be hoping to link up with more often on the left flank as the season progresses. Addressing his combination with Sané on Saturday, Mendy commented on the understanding between the pair.
“In training we work this with Sané and other players.”
“Leroy works on the left with me so I know him well. When he gave me the ball I knew what he would do, in my heart.
“He gave me the ball, I crossed it and … goal!”
City are already reaping the rewards for investing in one of Europe’s most exciting prospects who is proving to be influential both in the dressing room and on the pitch. Mendy’s positive attitude can only help the side going forward.