With Férland Mendy, Real Madrid have let in just 8 goals in 19 games (0.42 goals per game). With Marcelo, the team has conceded 15 goals in 15 games.
One of Zinedine Zidane’s first requests to rebuild the squad on his return was the signing of a left-back. The Madrid coach could see that Marcelo needed something to motivate him and get him back to his best.
Marcelo had been in decline since the departure of Zidane and also his close friend Cristiano. Lopetegui and Solari managed to mask the left-back’s drop in form by bringing in Castilla player Sergio Reguilón, who made 22 appearances with the first team, 14 of them in LaLiga either as an alternative to Marcelo or covering for the Brazilian when he was out injured.
Zidane’s return changed the situation completely. Regui went out on loan to Sevilla to gain experience and Férland Mendy was signed from Olympique Lyon in June last year – specifically to compete with Marcelo for the left-back position.
After overcoming a series of niggling muscular injuries which kept him out of the team at the start of the season, little by little Mendy is making the left-back slot his own. Zidane has used him whenever the team has faced right wingers who have blistering pace – such as Villarreal’s Samuel Chukwueze or Sevilla’s Jesús Navas. With the French full-back, Madrid have conceded just eight goals in 19 games (in all competitions), which is an average of 0.42 goals per game.
With Marcelo however, the average more than doubles – he has played 15 games so far this season, in which the team has conceded 15 goals… The Brazilian has also had three spells in the sickbay this season for various muscular injuries which has been an additional handicap.
It’s the same story in one-on-one battles with opposing players – Mendy comes out on top an average of 60.56%, while Marcelo averages 52.17%. As a unit, Madrid’s four-man back four of Carvajal, Varane, Ramos and Mendy have played a total of nine games – from which the team has own six and drawn three; that defence has kept a clean sheet in six games (66.66%) while the team has scored 17 goals.
With Marcelo in Mendy‘s place in the same defence, Madrid have played three games with two wins and a draw, scoring nine goals (an average of three per game) and let in three (an average of a goal per game).
It was Mendy who sent over a cross for Benzema’s winner in the derby against Atlético and he followed that up with a solid defensive display in Saturday’s game against Osasuna.
For Zidane, Mendy‘s arrival has been a blessing. He only had positive things to say about the young defender in his press conference ahead of the derby: “He’s settled in really well. He’s someone who wants to learn and improve. He is a very competitive player, who enjoys battles with rival forwards and he has the hunger to win. He wants to show that the club made the right decision in signing him,” Zizou said, before adding that there is some room for improvement: “He needs to continue improving his Spanish…” With Marcelo not getting any younger, at least Madrid have a reliable alternative in Mendy…