Talking Point: Mendy giving champion Manchester City an extra dimension

Benjamin Mendy claimed two assists in Manchester City's 2-0 win at Arsenal and is set to be a key figure in Pep Guardiola's title defence.

Manchester City got its Premier League title defence off and running with a 2-0 victory at Arsenal last weekend.   -  Getty Images

Manchester City got its Premier League title defence off and running with a 2-0 victory at Arsenal last weekend. The match marked the start of a new era at Emirates Stadium, with Unai Emery taking charge of a maiden competitive outing since succeeding Arsene Wenger.

A commitment to playing out from the back and an increase in the intensity of the Gunners' work off the ball were visible green shoots of a fresh approach in north London but, arguably, the tweaks Pep Guardiola made to his winning formula at City were more notable.

Benjamin Mendy laid on goals from Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva from left-back and the France international appears set to have a significant impact upon his club's bid for back-to-back league triumphs.

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Like a new signing

The well-worn early season cliche has been rolled out plenty of times already where Mendy is concerned over recent weeks after his impactful involvement in 2017-18 ended last September when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament against Crystal Palace.

Fabian Delph deputised ably at left-back, with Guardiola lacking another specialist in the position, as City cantered to the title, but Mendy offers vastly different attributes to the England international.

As a career midfielder, Delph's passing accuracy is comfortably superior to Mendy's since the start of last season at 93 per cent against 83.61 per cent, despite attempting an average of almost 35 more passes (83.2 to 48.78) every 90 minutes.

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Delph's adeptness in this regard helps to explains why Guardiola's tactical ploy of him tucking inside to bolster central areas worked so effectively. The Catalan is unlikely to ever joke about wanting to "kill" the 28-year-old, as he did with Mendy after the Arsenal match.

However, it is the France defender's attacking dynamism and unpredictability that gives the champion an exciting new edge.

Despite playing 451 minutes to Delph's 1746 over the same period, Mendy has supplied one more assist and attempted a remarkable 30 more crosses – 8.6 per 90 minutes in comparison to Delph's 0.7, albeit at a lower accuracy percentage (18.6 to 23.08). Mendy has also created the same amount of chances (11) and tried only three fewer shots (seven to 10).

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Wingers switched, Walker unleashed

Delph and City right-back Kyle Walker regularly shifted to central areas to help build play last term as Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane tore down the right and left flanks, respectively, for City.

The attacking threat provided by Mendy appears to have been a factor in persuading Guardiola to deploy Sterling on the left-hand side against Arsenal, where he collected a pass from the under and overlapping Frenchman in the 14th minute and cut inside to score with his stronger right foot.

Riyad Mahrez - making his Premier League debut - for City offered a parallel threat on the other side, skipping infield to clip a shot wide shortly before half-time.

It meant the onus was on Walker to provide natural width down the right – a task he approached with gusto, regularly haring towards and beyond the Arsenal defence. Walker attempted four dribbles in the match having averaged 1.5 per 90 minutes last term.

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Pass masters letting crown slip?

City's focus upon unlocking Arsenal with its dual threat on each wing seemed to impact upon its usually metronomic control of possession.

Pass completion was down to 84 per cent from a 38-game average of 89 per cent last season. It only recorded a lower number on this metric on four occasions during the title-winning campaign.

Also, City only had a lower percentage of possession than the 58 per cent enjoyed against Emery's men three times in 2017-18.

However, one of those games was against Arsenal and midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne spending an hour on the bench last Sunday is not a factor that should be underplayed.

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