Real Madrid defeated Shakhtar Donetsk on matchday four of the Champions League. Overall, it was a comprehensive performance with several standouts, the player who received the most attention from start to finish was left-back Ferland Mendy.
For weeks, Los Blancos were in bad shape defensively. They could not find any sort of solidity on the flanks, and defensive midfielder Casemiro was having a tough time filling in the gaps without the midfield control that Toni Kroos provides. Real were overworked, while the center back duo of Eder Militao and David Alaba, was barely able to maintain the defensive stability at the back.
Real Madrid played their most complete game of the season with Ferland Mendy and Toni Kroos in the lineup, and that is no coincidence. Kroos’ importance to Madrid is already well-established. Mendy picked up where he left off in his last match against Shakhtar, dominating the left flank defensively.
Let’s take a look at his stats so far in this edition of the Champions League:
Mendy has played both his games against Shakhtar in the UCL and has had a high pass accuracy percentage in both games. He has completed seven recoveries so far and has also made seven interceptions to stop the opposition attack.
The above viz shows Mendy’s pass map for the 2021-22 Champions League season. He has featured as a left-back in both the games and has been involved in the build-up towards the goal. The left-back tends to go forward and help in attack but is never shy of running to get back into his defensive positions. Mendy is a serious threat on the left wing for Real Madrid and also plays a big part in carrying the ball from his half into the final third. Most of the crosses he has attempted into the penalty area have generated a high xT and have given their attackers a better chance to score goals.
The above viz shows the locations of the defensive duels contested and won by the Los Blancos left-back. It can be seen that he is very strong on the left side of the defense in the defensive third and does not let anyone get past him easily. His strength in defense and his pace while going forward or running back are his biggest strengths. Mendy has also won five duels in the opposition’s half, as he tries to win the ball higher up the pitch, which gives his team a chance to begin an attack on the unsettled defense of the opposition. He changes the team’s fortunes, winning important tackles in the defensive third and recovering possession of the ball for his team.
Mendy recovered so many balls in the defensive third, and he did not give up any space or time to the Shakhtar players. Real Madrid suffer whenever Mendy is out, and that is because nobody provides the covering he does on the flank. Mendy is mentally sharp and capable of closing down anyone, including players outside of his normal defensive area.
Ferland Mendy was one of the most important players of October and is invaluable to Real Madrid. Though he has his technical flaws, his strengths are much more important to this team. To a team like Real that is so focused on attacking, getting Mendy’s work rate, quick-thinking, and perfection in the tackle is very vital.