Far from a hipster team, AS Monaco’s excellent season has garnered a lot of admirers across Europe. Scouts across the continent are making their way to the Stade Louis II and left-back Benjamin Mendy is the latest of their talented youngster to be linked with a move to England this summer.
Well-respected French newspaper L’Equipe are reporting that Mendy is a summer target for Arsenal, joining Manchester United, who have been mentioned with showing interest in the 22-year-old.
— Gurjit (@GurjitAFC) March 12, 2017
Mendy, who started his career with Le Havre, who play in Ligue 2, the same club that formed Paul Pogba and Riyad Mahrez.
When you add him to the likes of Bayern Munich target, Thomas Lemar, Bernardo Silva and Fabinho – linked with Manchester United. And teenage sensation, Kylian Mbappé rumoured to be a target for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal, you have a pretty spectacular team.
Monaco’s Excellent Benjamin Mendy
After 57 appearances in the second division, he moved to Olympique de Marseille in 2013 as a raw 18-year-old. Now, after 100 games in the top-flight, he is considered one of the best young full-backs in Europe and has been called up to the France international side for their upcoming friendlies.
The 22-year-old is everything you want from a modern-day left sided defender, something that Manchester City learned all about over their 6-6 defeat on away goals to the principality side.
Mendy had always shown a willingness to get up and down the pitch as fast as physically possible. He has a superb engine and desire to never stop running.
Rather than dwell on the ball in deep areas, the Frenchman is quick to fire crosses into the box, which can be both a plus point and a criticism at the same time.
However, it was during his time under Marcelo Bielsa at the Stade Velodrome that really helped develop his understanding of the position:
“Bielsa’s arrival brought me into a different world,” the defender told L’Equipe. “Every day, after the training sessions, he spoke to us about tactics. With Bielsa, his passion showed out through training and he knew how to motivate me.”
Mendy then admitted that after their first meeting, the Argentine coach told him he had to lose two pounds, telling the defender ‘You do not eat’ before they headed for lunch. It worked and his performances benefitted from the coach’s methods.
Massive Improvement at Monaco
Monaco needed someone to play on the left of their back four after Layvin Kurzawa departure for Paris Saint-Germain and they pounced and paid OM £11million to secure him at the start of the summer.
Mendy’s style was perfectly suited to the 4-4-2 that Leonardo Jardim had in mind for the campaign ahead. Playing behind Thomas Lemar, the defender has a player in front that is more interested in coming inside than hugging the touchline, giving him the freedom of the left-flank and the space to burst up and down like an express train.
Against Marseille, returning to his former home, he showed just how powerful and willing a runner he can be. 103 minutes into the Coupe de France fixture, the game is tied and Monaco win the ball back in the midfield.
Mendy starts as one of the deepest players on his team. Then he sees an opportunity.
After five seconds, he has blown past half the people on the pitch and is on the half-way line.
Rather than feel the effects of a long, tough match, he is a bulldozer, five seconds later he is unmarked at OM’s back post and was able to tap in the 3-2 lead.
After El Loco, Mendy has found another nurturing and encouraging coach in the Portuguese manager. At the start of his time in the Côte d’Azur, Mendy was regularly turning up late for training, but rather than come down hard on his new signing, Jardim gave him a watch. A point made, Mendy got the hunt and everything has been fine since.
“Benjamin Mendy is a player with very good qualities, a very good left foot,” beamed Jardim when asked about the defender. “He can become one of the best full-backs in the world. Tactically, he had to work on offensive and defensive timing. He is much more attuned to that now.”
Would he be an upgrade at Arsenal?
Arsenal fans are desperate for an upgrade at left-back and Mendy is already a better player than both Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal, plus he would give the Gunners back line a much-needed physical boost, both in general and during set-pieces.
The Monaco man wins more tackles per 90 minutes than both Wenger’s options, he sees less of the ball than Monreal has this term, but that is due to the nature of how both teams play. However, he completes more than seven times the crosses that the Spaniard manages.
His ability to deliver dangerous balls into the box was evident against City. You would like him to improve his cross selection and try and pick players out more, but what he does do is put the ball in hard and early, making defenders react and causing havoc in the penalty area.
Mendy has managed three assists this term, but is averaging 1 key pass per 90 minutes and 1.9 in the UEFA Champions League. Compare that to Monreal at 0.4 and 0.7 and you can see what Mendy would bring to not only a defence that needs upgrading, but an attack that needs new avenues to provide support.
Add Mendy to Hector Bellerin on the other flank and all Arsenal would need is a player like Manchester United target, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Arsène Wenger – or whoever is in charge – to protect them and they could become a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League and in Europe.