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Mendy running out of time to convince Guardiola as Man City consider late left-back move

11:00 AM GMT+4 01/10/2020
Tagliafico Mendy Alaba GFX
The France defender put in a strong showing against Burnley on Wednesday but that may not stop City from exploring other options in the coming days

Benjamin Mendy is starting his fourth season under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, and yet he is still to convince the Catalan coach that he can be relied upon to perform at a consistent high level.

As such, and with just five days of the transfer window still remaining, a new left-back could yet arrive at the Etihad Stadium provided a defender is sold to free up a space in the squad.

Oleksandr Zinchenko would seem the most likely option to depart, though an injury in the build-up to City’s 3-0 Carabao Cup victory over Burnley on Wednesday could disrupt any last-minute transfer plans.

“Yesterday he was injured again,” Guardiola said of the Ukraine international. “He was recovering two days ago and then in the training session he got injured unfortunately.

“He will be staying, I think.”

Zinchenko’s injury is a set-back, but City could yet find a way to make a late move before the window shuts on October 5, with Ajax’s Nicolas Tagliafico and Bayern Munich’s David Alaba among those to have been linked with a belated transfer.

Since he began reshaping his defence in 2017, Guardiola’s has scraped by at left-back with Mendy being backed-up by a combination of midfielders, such as Zinchenko or Fabian Delph, right-footed full-backs in the shape of Joao Cancelo or Danilo, or central defenders such as Aymeric Laporte or, now, Nathan Ake.

Mendy put in one of his better performances at Turf Moor, but City need a proper rival for his position rather than the mish-mash of options they have had for the past few seasons.

Competition for starting positions is fierce throughout the rest of Guardiola's squad, but increasing the depth at left-back is the one area that has been overlooked during his reign.

Both Tagliafico, who has shown his quality with the Dutch champions both domestically and in Europe, and Alaba, who Guardiola knows well having worked with the Austria international at Bayern Munich, would offer sustained competition to Mendy and help take some of the pressure off after a difficult few years at the Etihad.

The France international showed off his best attributes against Sean Dyche's side as a stronger-than-expected City line-up impressed, continuing their bid to win the competition for a fourth straight season.

In an energetic performance, Mendy claimed an assist for City's opening goal as he picked out Raheem Sterling with a clever pull-back that the England international lashed home from 10 yards for his first of two goals on the night.

There were plenty more rampaging runs forward from Mendy as he and either Riyad Mahrez or new signing Ferran Torres, who himself got on the scoresheet in the second half, overloaded the Burnley defence.

It was the sort of performance that showed why City paid £52 million ($68m) to sign him from Monaco three years ago, but also the kind of display that he needs to deliver more consistently.

Just three days earlier in the 5-2 drubbing by Leicester City, for example, things did not go quite so well.

There have been mitigating circumstances for Mendy to fall back on during his time at the Etihad. A nightmare cruciate knee ligament injury ruled him out for the majority of his first season in Manchester, and the time it took for him to fully recover meant he missed much of the following campaign too.

By the time his third season came around, City’s defence had started to show signs of weakness, and Mendy's lack of consistency contributed to them more than helping to provide the cure.

Some of his confidence has, much like the rest of the team's, drained away, particularly when Laporte is not available inside of him. 

The former Athletic Club centre-back made his first start of the season against Burnley after recovering from a positive Covid-19 test, and Mendy always looks more settled with his French compatriot tucked in alongside him.

In fact, it was the pair who teamed up to create the opener, with Laporte playing a clever pass inside the full-back to pick out Mendy’s run, which in turn gave him to time to find Sterling in space in the box.

Defensively, too, he looked more solid, showing strength to hold off the physical threats of Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood as they threatened with late chances.

With the game won just after the hour, Guardiola switched to a 3-5-2, which gave Mendy the opportunity to get further forward with greater freedom.

His determination saw him demand the ball in the second minute of stoppage time and send over a cross that Sterling failed to control when a hat-trick was waiting for him.

It was a positive night for Mendy amid the transfer noise, but winning in the early rounds of the Carabao Cup is far different from playing a part in crucial Champions League or Premier League victories.

Guardiola will want the best options he can get in each and every position if he his to sign off his final season at the helm in style.