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Man City manager Pep Guardiola has big decision to make with Benjamin Mendy

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It has been a frustrating time for Benjamin Mendy at Manchester City. The Frenchman has never quite reached the heights that he or Pep Guardiola were expecting when he joined the club in the summer of 2017.

Of course, injuries have played a huge part in that. Mendy suffered a torn ACL in his first season at the club, limiting him to just seven league appearances. He then suffered a knee injury in his second season, leading to another lengthy layoff and inconsistent availability.

But even when he has been fit, Mendy has not produced at a consistently high level.

His attacking talents are hugely important in the City set-up. He races to the touchline with blistering speed, is a terrific crosser and provided five assists in 900 minutes last year. But defensively, like so many full-backs these days, he has routinely been found out.

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Although he worked hard to redeem himself in Sunday’s FA Cup victory at Newcastle, Mendy’s defensive issues were laid bare in City’s defeat at Chelsea last week.

As the Blues cleared from a corner and Ilkay Gundogan looked to sweep up, Mendy first did not peel wide to create an angle for Gundogan to play a pass.

Instead, he came towards the ball and played an awful pass across the face of Gundogan and into open space. Christian Pulisic pounced on the loose ball and drove past the stranded Gundogan.

Mendy’s attempts to recover were laughable. He stood square to Pulisic, then dived in to win the ball, only to see the American easily burst around him and roll a lovely finish into the far corner.

A disastrous performance, which saw Aleksandr Zinchenko introduced in Mendy’s place in the second half, could not have come at a worse time.

Earlier last week, Mendy told BT Sport: “This is my time. All the time I lost was not the same because I was injured. The way Manchester City, the staff, the players were behind me, helped me, pushed me, I want to give them the real Mendy back.”

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Guardiola, too, singled out the left-back for praise after an excellent performance against Arsenal in City’s first game back from lockdown, although there was a note of caution.

“As a left-back, he is an extraordinary player, but we cannot forget he has played just one game,” said Guardiola. “It’s true he came back so fit after the lockdown and he was focused - but it’s just one game.

“With Benji, we need to wait a little bit and hopefully in this period he can play a lot of games and play regularly because he’s a guy we missed a lot.”

Sunday’s FA Cup clash gave Guardiola an early opportunity to rehabilitate Mendy following his Chelsea disaster, but the real test of his standing with the City boss will come this Thursday with the home clash against new champions Liverpool (8.15pm).

Benjamin Mendy is caught out by Christian Pulisic as the Chelsea man runs clear to open the socring for his side against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. (Image: Paul Childs)

The Frenchman is a potentially an elite-level left-back with a tremendous skill set that few other players in his position can replicate. And yet, either because of a lack of fitness or poor defensive security, he hasn't been able to produce consistently at those levels.

Mendy’s social media antics do not help him, either. While it has endeared him to supporters and makes him one of the more popular players at the club, to some, it is a distraction. Even Guardiola has questioned his attitude and behaviour at times.

“He told me to calm down,” Mendy said of Guardiola in an interview with FourFourTwo. “He said it's normal to have a life on social media, but not too much. Some people are always waiting for you to make a mistake – and even if it's not that bad, it can become a really big thing.”

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Last April, Mendy was pictured in a nightclub at 3:30am. Guardiola said that he was not his father and was relaxed about the situation, while also conceding it was not the ideal preparation for a professional footballer.

Mendy is far from a problem character, but when allied with inconsistent performances on the pitch, it creates a negative image of his work.

And given Guardiola’s ruthless expectations, there is only so long that such fluctuations in form and performance will be allowed.

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It leaves his future lurching between the high-ceiling potential of an elite-level left-back and an error-strewn weakness that opponents will look to exploit. He can be so great and so grating; so electric and so infuriating. This is the real Benjamin Mendy.

City have subsequently been linked with an array of left-backs, including Ben Chilwell of Leicester City.

His talent is undeniable, and at only 25 there is plenty of reason to believe he might not be finished yet. One bad performance does not ruin a career, but time is running out for Mendy to prove his worth.




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