Guardiola to get creative again with Mendy out for 3 months

FILE - In this file photo dated Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, Manchester City's Benjamin Mendy kicks the ball during the English Premier League soccer match against Southampton at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Friday Nov. 23, 2018, that left back Benjamin Mendy could miss up to three months with his latest knee injury. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira, FILE)

With Benjamin Mendy facing another long spell out with a knee injury, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is going to have to get creative again at left back.

Guardiola said Friday that Mendy would be out for up to three months after undergoing an operation on a meniscus problem during the international break.

It leaves the Premier League leaders without a natural left back for one of the busiest parts of the season, including the hectic period over Christmas.

City and Guardiola have been here before, however.

Mendy missed the majority of last season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Crystal Palace in September 2017. He only returned to the team in April and wasn't fully match sharp heading into the World Cup, when he was second-choice left back — behind Lucas Hernandez — in France's run to the title.

This time, Mendy has injured his left knee, seemingly getting hurt against Manchester United in City's last game before the two-week international break. He played the full 90 minutes in the match, though.

"Ten to 12 weeks," Guardiola said, when asked for a timescale on Mendy's absence.

Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko — both midfielders — are likely to be called on to fill in for Mendy, just like last season.

Delph was the main pick at left back and he was a revelation in an out-of-position role. Zinchenko, who almost left the club in the offseason, could be given more of a chance this season and has already played games in the Premier League and Champions League in the opening three months.

Another option could be Aymeric Laporte, a left-footed center back who played at left back occasionally toward the end of last season — including against Liverpool in the Champions League quarterfinals.

So, Guardiola has options, but none of the alternatives offer the same attacking threat as Mendy, who has already set up six league goals this season.

The Spanish coach said last season that the absence of Mendy made him change his game plan, specifically meaning that Leroy Sane was his preferred winger on the left as the team needed genuine width on that side without Mendy.

This season, Raheem Sterling has often played as City's left winger but more as an inside forward, with Mendy charging forward outside him. City signed Riyad Mahrez in the offseason to bolster its attacking options, but Guardiola might prefer to go again with Sane and Sterling as his wide forwards while Mendy is out.

City is unbeaten in its opening 12 games in the league, and arguably is looking more dominant than last season when the team won the title in record-breaking fashion — getting more points, goals and wins than any other team since the Premier League was formed in 1992.

This news on Mendy might give City's main rivals — notably Liverpool and Chelsea, who are also unbeaten — some hope in the title race.


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