Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Bernard Mendy is a richly talented footballer. Skilful, positive, incisive and a nightmare for opponents to predict, he cuts a majestic and devastating figure when he is on form.
Unfortunately, at the moment he is not on form and, unlike other players who can wing it a bit when things don't go their way, he has become a total liability.
Mendy cuts out the middle man of averageness. If he isn't brilliant and winning a game on his own, he is appalling and putting his team-mates in grave danger of losing the match and the supporters in grave danger of losing their fingernails.
Such has been Mendy's impact this season, both as a player and as an entertainer (equally on footballing and human levels) that at the moment he is forgiven, regularly, for his brainstorms on the pitch. Like Geovanni, the Tiger Nation is aware that a terrible performance can still go up in a puff of smoke thanks to one piece of isolated genius. Slack is cut in his direction because of his cult status, his genuine joy at being at the club, his post-victory dances, his decision to wear gloves plucked straight from the club shop and his wonderful habit of applauding the supporters forever and ever, home and away, irrespective of result and long after his colleagues have vanished down the tunnel.
Mendy is still earning Phil Brown's faith and a place in the starting XI despite his recent lack of involvement in games that he is allegedly participating in. In possession of the ball, he runs more aimlessly at full backs, cutting inside too early and often finding himself going round in a circle and ultimately losing the ball, or at best being forced to play it backwards.
Now we have been consistent in saying that fullbacks don't have a clue what Mendy is going to do because Mendy doesn't know himself. This was always Mendy's strength during his good days as either a starter or impact substitute. Now, however, the fullback facing the Frenchman finds himself able to predict Mendy's movement and quash his danger while Mendy himself still doesn't know where he is going.
Why Mendy has become like this is hard to say. He wasn't in the starting XI for the game against Tottenham Hotspur at the KC, a decision which caused much head scratching. Brown explained after the crushing 2-1 defeat that family problems had prompted an emergency return to Paris and his flight back to work had only landed an hour before kick, meaning the best he could be once reporting for duty was a substitute. One wonders if the family issue, the nature of which was never revealed (and as it's Mendy's business, nobody should want to know), is still affecting the Frenchman right now.
Mendy, when playing well, is an artist and a comedian all rolled into one. The way he removed Andrea Dossena from his own skin time and again during that roaringly good first half at Liverpool is one of the individual performances of the season, and while the unwillingness of the referee to accept that Liverpool players can commit fouls certainly contributed to the Tigers' concession of a two-goal lead, the enforced repositioning of Mendy to right back due to Paul McShane's injury was just as much responsible for City's decline. The half hour or so he played in midfield, Mendy had won the free kick which led to McShane's opener, then took Dossena apart for City's second, which was put into his own net by a hassled, panicky Jamie Carragher. Then McShane's head started to spin and off he went, and City were never the same.
When Mendy isn't playing well, he is merely a comedian. Forgivable as this was at the start of the season when Premier League status was little more than a novelty, a holiday, it isn't any more. His mad dive in the Blackburn Rovers box back in August was as amusing (albeit unpardonable) an incident as you'll ever see on a football field, but now his attempt to earn free kicks that clearly aren't are just frustrating; Mendy is especially adept at being tackled and standing wholly still, protesting for a non-existent foul, while his conqueror beetles off with the ball without the man he has just robbed making any attempt to make up for his inadequacy by chasing to win it back. Ian Ashbee and Sam Ricketts, beside and behind him respectively, are doing this for him and won't be happy in the slightest that Mendy's workrate without possession doesn't hold up.
It's not as if there aren't alternatives available for the right hand side. Craig Fagan is on the left right now and despite his known dislike for playing anywhere other than centrally, he presently is a better option than Mendy. Richard Garcia, a player whose abilities may not provide a long-term solution but whose form and attitude earns him a starting place ahead of most, is another blindingly obvious choice ahead of the out-of-sorts Frenchman. Should Brown wish to squeeze the midfield and rely on the fullbacks to supply width, then Nick Barmby and even Ryan France certainly should feel that they have a case ahead of Mendy at the moment.
The unpredictability factor is a double-edged sword and Mendy is currently feeling the sharpness of it. While his joyful facility to make fullbacks sweat through his lack of giveaway body language provides one edge, the other is currently the one Brown is relying on - the one which says that Mendy can play terribly for 89 minutes and then produce one moment of cleverness and class that defines the season. Unfortunately, worryingly even, Mendy is showing not even the slightest sign of coming up with that moment, and now is not the time of the season for us all to be willing to wait.
Mendy needs a break, Garcia needs a go, and the bench needs the Frenchman. Considering his impact at Manchester United when he emerged from the dugout at 4-1 down and promptly scored one and earned a penalty for another, it's obvious that Mendy is best deployed as a tactical alteration while he is misfiring. As brilliant as he is, he simply doesn't deserve a place in the team right now.
Posted by Boyhood Dreams