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Manchester City

The curious case of Benjamin Mendy - excluded from the first team as Guardiola loses patience

18:04 BST 30/09/2018
Pep Guardiola Benjamin Mendy
Pep Guardiola is losing patience with the left-back over his off-field conduct, despite his importance to Manchester City's tactical evolution

Benjamin Mendy has not posted on Instagram or Twitter in over a week now. The left-back has vowed to listen to Pep Guardiola and cut down his social media posts, yet there is another reason why there have been none of his behind-the-scenes glimpses into life in the Manchester City dressing room; he has not been there.

Last Sunday, the injured left-back turned up nearly three hours late for a recovery session on his bruised metatarsal.

As soon as Mendy walked through the door Guardiola told him to get back out. On Friday the City boss insisted the France international was "every day in the training sessions" but sources have told Goal that the Catalan banned one of his most influential players from the first-team set-up for a week.

Mendy was kept away from the rest of the squad as they prepared for their games with Oxford United and Brighton.

This was not the first time Mendy has got on the wrong side of the City coaching staff this season, nor is it his first punishment, and Guardiola is fast losing patience.

In August, Goal revealed that Mendy had been fined for being late to training ahead of the Premier League opener at Arsenal, while Guardiola has made him move out of his city centre apartment to avoid any off-field distractions.

The latter may sound like a harmless measure but senior figures at City, all the way to the top of the club, have long been worried about Mendy getting into serious trouble, and have expressed concerns about the company he keeps.

The Frenchman has also been banned from driving for 12 months in the past fortnight. Officially he was not banned for speeding offences, but for failing to respond to four letters to clarify whether or not he was the driver.

He was found not to have been in the driving seat, but there has been at least one separate incident in recent weeks where Mendy has crashed into another road user, while uninsured.

These recent events have started to eat away at Guardiola's patience. The City boss who turned the tables on Mendy at the start of the season; when invited to praise a fine performance against Arsenal, he said he should focus more on football and spend less time on social media.

Yet Instagram and Twitter have been the least of their worries in recent weeks, and while Guardiola overlooked a potentially serious off-field incident and included Mendy in his team against Huddersfield on the second weekend of the season, the Catalan is becoming more and more exasperated.

Guardiola insisted publicly that he had no problem with Mendy attending Anthony Joshua's world title fight in Wembley last Saturday, the same stance he took over Sergio Aguero's attendance of a concert in Amsterdam a year ago.

On both occasions, however, the 47-year-old was left furious. But while Aguero was unfortunate to be involved in a car crash and has shown a willingness to work hard in the past two seasons, Guardiola is concerned Mendy is not showing the same levels of dedication.

On the pitch, Mendy has proven his worth to City and to Guardiola in his four league appearances so far. For three of those games Guardiola has deployed radically different tactics compared to last season's tried and tested 4-3-3 shape, and in each game Mendy was key.

His skill set means he can charge up and down the left flank and put in dangerous crosses, but also come inside and cause havoc through the middle, if required.

The 24-year-old had stood out as one of City's best players in the early weeks of the campaign, racking up four assists in as many games as he became a vital attacking outlet.

Since his injury City have had to revert to the 4-3-3 of last season, which has not hampered their results but has restricted their ability to mix things up and keep their opponents guessing, which is what Guardiola wants as he seeks to successfully defend the title.

Guardiola was asked about this aspect of Mendy's absence on Friday but instead of talking up what he brings to the team he took the opportunity to air a little bit of frustration.

"When a guy comes here and is injured for seven months or arrives here and plays two or three games and after one month is injured it’s always a problem," he said. "It’s always a problem to be involved in the way we want to play and the meetings and correcting mistakes. That’s why it’s so important. Hopefully this injury can be the last."

Guardiola may have refused to be drawn into the specific events of the past week when asked by a reporter armed with all of the details, and he may have even defended Mendy by pointing fingers at the genuinely appalling Manchester traffic.

But he did confirm Mendy was late and signs of his frustration were visible; the mention of the meetings that he has missed, not to mention the pointed phrase "when he decides to play he's going to play".

Unfortunately for Guardiola his press conference approach was not only let out of the bag by Amazon, but plastered over advertising hoardings for all to see.

"Of course I'm going to defend you until the last day in our lives in the press conference, but here, I am going to tell you the truth," he told his players within the confines of the dressing room.

That is where Guardiola deals with his problems, and Mendy has suddenly found himself on the outside looking in.