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Arsenal have been continuously criticised for their transfer failings over the years. Manager Arsene Wenger has had fingers pointed at him for not reinforcing areas of the pitch that need strengthening. One such area for the Gunners has been that of the left-back.
The left-back position has been one of the biggest weak links for the Gunners this season. First-choice left-back Nacho Monreal has struggled to meet his level of performances from the past two seasons, that saw him emerge as one of the strongest in the position in the league. Having crossed 31 years of age, the Spanish international has looked jaded and tired for the most part of the season. While he was never electric on the field, he had enough pace to tackle opponents.
However, this time around, he has been severely exposed for his lack of pace and has been targeted time and again by pacey wingers from the opposition. Not so long ago, Sadio Mane tore him apart in the Gunners’ 3-1 loss at the Anfield and Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich had a field day going up against the former Malaga man in the Champions League.
On the other hand, second choice left-back Kieran Gibbs’ career seems to have stalled. The 27-year old has been with Arsenal since 2004 and having made his debut way back in 2007, the Englishman has made just 132 appearances in his career for the Gunners. Someone who was regarded very highly in and around the Emirates Stadium, Gibbs has failed to fulfill the amount of potential he showed at the beginning of his career.
Following a stint that has been characterised by injuries and inconsistent displays, he could very well be heading out of North London. With his current contract set to expire in the summer of 2018 and no negotiations over a new deal, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Gibbs leave Arsenal.
It has been confounding for the fans that Arsenal haven’t made a genuine effort to reinforce and strengthen the left-back position. However, that looks set to change this summer amid reports emerging that the Gunners are monitoring AS Monaco full-back Benjamin Mendy.
The 22-year old has been making huge strides with the Principality-based club this season and has been a key figure in their excellent run in Ligue1 and the Champions League. It is not the first time that Arsenal are showing interest on the full-back. They had a £2.5-million offer rejected for him back in 2013 when he was still plying his trade with French club Le Havre FC.
The Frenchman has featured 26 times across all competitions this season for Monaco and has been highly impressive each time he has taken the field. Mendy has scored once this season, in the Coupe de France and has 8 assists to his name, with 5 of them coming in the French top-flight (19 appearances) and three in the UEFA Champions League (5 appearances).
Averaging a good number of 2.3 tackles per game and 1.7 interceptions per game, Mendy has displayed good defensive nous and is equally strong in the air as well. The biggest feature of his gameplay is his energy level. The endless stamina allows him to run up and down the flank at an impressive pace, all day long. This eventually allows him to romp forward when his team is in possession and get back into position when the opponents are on the move.
A brilliant dribbler of the ball, Mendy is also an equally excellent crosser and loves to play the little one-twos with his teammates in and around the opposition box. He also possesses a keen eye for passes in the danger area and the 22-year old has played 26 key passes for his teammates this term.
The fact that some of his best displays this season have come on the continental stage demonstrate that Mendy is up and ready for the challenge and saves his best for the biggest of occasions. Wednesday night was one such occasion for Monaco, as they were chasing a quarterfinal place in the UEFA Champions League.
The Ligue1 leaders were facing Manchester City in the second leg of their Round-of-16 Champions League tie and were facing an uphill task after having lost the first leg 5-3 at the Etihad. But Leonardo Jardim’s men managed to mount an excellent comeback, winning the game 3-1 and as a result, they go through to the next round based on their superior away-goal tally in the tie, with the aggregate score level tied at 6-6.
One of the major driving forces of the victory for Monaco was that man, Benjamin Mendy. The left-back was an engine running on full throttle against Pep Guardiola’s side running up and down the flank all night long with surprising ease. As a result, Pep had to peg Bacary Sagna back into his own half, while not allowing Raheem Sterling to do much in the attacking sense either.
Mendy was a constant menace to the City defence with his forward forays and his biggest contribution in the game came in the shape of a powerfully lashed cross into the box, that Fabinho bundled into the back of the net to give Monaco a 2-0 lead in the first-half. Everything that Mendy brings to the table as a player, was summed up in that single move. He bombed forward with pace, received the ball from Thomas Lemar and got past his man before drilling in a cross with surgical precision.
Arsenal had their scout Gilles Grimandi present at the Stade Louis II for the encounter on Wednesday night, and he will have returned back to London with glowing reports of the full-back. Considering Monreal’s struggles this term and Gibbs’ stagnancy, a move in the summer for the young and exuberant Mendy must be at the top of the priority list for Arsenal.
All the Stats are taken from whoscored.com