Benjamin Mendy vs Marcos Alonso: Who comes out on top?
The 2018/19 Premier League season feels like the year of the left-back. Luke Shaw's returned to fitness, Liverpool's Andrew Robertson has continued with his excellent form. Even Watford's Jose Holebas has started like a house on fire.
There are two, though, who are a cut above. Manchester City's £50million man Benjamin Mendy, and Chelsea's loveable Spaniard, Marcos Alonso. Who wins the prize as the best left-sided defender in the English game at the moment?
Let's start with the social media king, Mendy. Pep Guardiola identified the full-back area as his biggest concern just over twelve months ago. Kyle Walker's effect helped The Citizens to their first title under the master tactician. Imagine how big that nineteen-point margin would have been if the flying Frenchman didn't get injured in the early-going?
Mendy, 24, has started this term as if he'd never been away. I expected a lull in performances to begin with, particularly after spending so long sidelined coupled with the fact that he hasn't played all-too-often in a notoriously tough system to learn. Five games into the campaign, the former AS Monaco man has five assists to his name. With better finishing, that number could be even greater.
Chance creation down that left-hand side at The Etihad has gone through the roof. Mendy's always offering himself as an outlet thanks to his blistering pace, a willingness to bomb forward while also being positionally aware to sprint backwards should City give the ball away and find themselves on the defensive. The only thing missing at this point is goals. He's netted four times in his career to date. That number could well improve given the amount of time he spends in the opposing third.
As for Alonso, nobody expected the immediate production that he brought to the table. Signing him, for as little as £24million, is nothing short of a masterstroke. Six goals and three assists in Antonio Conte's debut, title-winning, season is an excellent return. It's not just his offensive prowess, either. Going in the other direction he was immensely solid. He made that left-wingback slot his own.
Alonso's second season in England was more of the same. The trophies weren't delivered, his individual performances didn't waver. We've now a big enough sample size to suggest that this attacking output is the norm rather than the exception. Even a change in management hasn't altered his style. Four assists and one goal in five 2018/19 appearances is spectacular.
For Fantasy Football players, both these guys should be absolute musts (should your budget allow that, of course). They epitomise the modern-day defender although both have differing styles. It's a joy to watch these two masters of their craft. Although there can only be one victor...
Winner: Marcos Alonso.
It's close. Purely for longevity, I have to opt for the Chelsea man. If City wins another trophy or two this term, however, my opinion could well change. Defensively, Alonso has the edge. The goal output that he provides, from left-back, is nothing short of spectacular. The only categories in which I'd give Mendy the nod right is in assists and speed.
Alonso, in my opinion, is the more well-rounded player. That's expected as he is three-years Mendy's senior with a cleaner injury record up until this point. It's certainly going to be intriguing to see how this battle plays out throughout the season.