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The Curious Case of Benjamin Mendy and Nathan Ake at Manchester City

A Look At The Two Defenders Who Could Spell Trouble In City’s Title Bid

Manchester City v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

They both cost a combined £92m, but do they play like it? Have Benjamin Mendy and Nathan Ake failed to live up to expectations at Manchester City? Let's take a closer look at the duo.

Benjamin Mendy - A Flaw in City’s Armour?

The club went all out for Benjamin Mendy in 2017, and understandably so. The French left-back was considered one of the best players in his position at the time.

“He is undoubtedly one of the world’s best full-backs, our number one target in this position,” said director of football Txiki Begiristain after Mendy’s capture in 2017.

But boy, has this been a bad signing? If ever there was money wasted, this looks like it. In fact, the Frenchman may be seriously competing for the top prize as City’s worst signing ever, considering the £52m outlay.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was considered expensive at £50m when he moved from Crystal Palace to Manchester United in the summer of 2019. But the Englishman has proved he is worth every penny at Old Trafford.

The same cannot be said of Mendy. Like they say in football, "you are as good as your last game." Against Tottenham, the 27-year-old was horrible. But it's been the same story for most of his last four years at the club.

To think that he was the third most expensive signing in the Premier League in 2017. Manchester United splashed £75m on Romelu Lukaku while Chelsea brought in Alvaro Morata for £60m to rank top two that summer.

A lot has changed since.

Morata is now at Juventus while Lukaku is returning to Chelsea as a king with the sole purpose of knocking City off their perch. Meanwhile, Mendy is becoming a chink in City’s armour.

Hit with a long-term injury just a few games into his City career, the Frenchman couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start to life at the Etihad Stadium. He has not been the same player since - and City have suffered as a result.

Selling him has been a difficult proposition as he is more or less damaged goods. Besides, who will buy an average left-back at that price? With two years left on his contract, City need to seriously consider offloading him next summer (at any price), otherwise, the club risks losing him on a free in 2023. Except, of course, there’s a massive turnaround in his performance that will warrant his contract being extended. If that doesn’t happen this season, it will be best to cut the losses and move on.

Nathan Ake - Good Just as a Back-up?

When Chelsea refused to trigger their buyback clause on Nathan Ake last summer, it was for a good reason. The Netherlands defender was not considered good enough, even by Frank Lampard.

But Manchester City were desperate for a centre-back after losing their title to Liverpool due to defensive frailties. Ake benefited from the opportunity due to his Premier League experience.

But how Bournemouth was able to extract £40m for a player that was just not made for a top side like City remains a mystery. That’s because no other top team in Europe seriously wanted him. So there was no competition for his signature. So why would City pay so much?

Well, that’s what happens when you’re desperate. At the time, Ruben Dias’ deal was far from certain. If the Portuguese had been secured first, the club may have thought twice about Ake.

The 26-year-old didn’t feature much last season, but has been trusted to start City’s first two games of the new campaign. The results have been back-to-back losses. He played a direct role in causing the defeat to Leicester City by giving away a penalty.

Like everyone else, he needed to be given a chance to prove himself. Yes, two games are not enough to judge a player. But City don’t have the luxury of trial and error while waiting for anyone to come good.

If there’s anything Ake has proved in the two competitive matches he has played this season, it’s that he is only good for a backup role at this point.

As can be seen in the opening weekend of the campaign, there’ll be little or no margin for error in the Premier League this season. City’s main rivals have all strengthened with Chelsea and Manchester United looking particularly determined to wrestle away the league title.

John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko have to be brought back into the lineup as fast as possible. Aymeric Laporte seems dissatisfied with his playing time and can be incorporated into the lineup by playing a back three, while Kyle Walker and Zinchenko function as wingbacks.

That should help get the team quickly get back on track if defending the title is a priority.