In Focus: Mendy out to ensure Chelsea stay Ed-ing in the right direction
Edouard Mendy has been a shrewd signing for Chelsea since joining last summer — and Saturday’s win over Brentford was further proof of that.
The Blues edged out the Bees 1-0 thanks to a 45th-minute Ben Chilwell strike.
But there was only one man claiming the headlines after the game.
A string of second-half saves from Chelsea’s No1 prevented the dominant hosts from equalising and secured his fifth clean sheet in 10 games this term.
With many of his peers adamant Mendy should have been nominated for the Ballon d'Or, we turn the spotlight on the safe pair of hands Thomas Tuchel has come to rely upon.
On the Mend
Before snapping up Mendy from Ligue 1 Rennes for £22million, Chelsea’s well-documented problems between the sticks had continued to hinder them.
With Frank Lampard at the helm, former No1 Kepa Arrizabalaga was suffering a crisis of confidence after an unconvincing 2019-20 campaign spilled over into the new season.
The Spaniard began the season with high-profile errors against Brighton and Liverpool, with the latter costing them three points against potential title rivals.
Amid Kepa’s struggles, Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said: "If you don’t have your goalkeeper right you are going to massively struggle to get where you need to get to.
"You certainly will never win a league. You will not win a league with a goalkeeper who is letting goals in from outside his box, doesn’t dominate his area and concedes goals from set-pieces. It isn’t going to happen."
He was subsequently dropped for Willy Cabellero for the next two games as it became clear Chelsea were in the market for a new keeper.
That man was Mendy, who has been the club's first choice ever since.
Chelsea’s inconsistent form saw Lampard sacked in January — and it was under Tuchel that Mendy really began to show his class.
The German boss immediately went about instilling some much-needed organisation defensively, with the Senegal international thriving at the heart of it.
Mendy kept nine clean sheets in 17 Premier League games after Tuchel took over, while he was also a key part of Chelsea’s unlikely run to Champions League glory.
Of the 13 games Chelsea played, they shut out their opponents in nine of them — the joint highest clean sheet tally in a single Champions League season — including in the all-important 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the final.
After another assured display in the second leg of the semi-final success against Real Madrid, former Blues star Joe Cole said: "He was very good tonight, he has been well protected but when he is needed he makes the save.
"Credit to the people who brought him in at the time because the Kepa situation wasn’t working.
"All great teams need a goalkeeper who can pull them out of trouble now and again and that’s what he does. He gets in the right place. When that back four or five gets breached, they know they have him at the back."
Mendy's heroics during that Champions League run also saw him win the UEFA Men’s Goalkeeper of the Year award.
After their goalkeeping woes dominated the start of last season, it was arguably their excellence in that area that saw 2020-21 end so successfully for the Blues.
Safe pair of hands
Mendy has proved he is no one-season wonder after several eye-catching displays this term.
Chelsea’s exceptional defensive capabilities continue to make them hard to beat and they have conceded just three league goals.
Mendy’s consistency is clear to see, with only Manchester City’s Ederson (24) keeping more clean sheets than the Chelsea stopper’s 20 — and that is having played five less games than the Brazilian in that time.
Not only that, there has been more than one occasion already this season where Chelsea have had their No1 to thank for the three points after making several outstanding saves.
Blocking the Bees
Arguably his standout display for Chelsea came on Saturday as he put in a match-winning performance to stop in-form Brentford.
He was a surprise omission from the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or — but Mendy is clearly not letting the snub affect his confidence.
Thomas Frank’s side put in an impressive second-half display against the Premier League leaders, which on another day — or with another keeper in goal — could well have earned them victory.
Brentford peppered Chelsea’s goal with 15 shots after the break, forcing Mendy into six stops where goals looked a certainty.
After the match, Tuchel was in no doubt who to praise. He said: "Ed was absolutely decisive to escape with a clean sheet."
It was Chilwell who scored the winner but even he admitted Mendy made the difference.
The left-back added: "I don’t know how many times he saved but there are a lot of very important saves and he does it every week for us.
"He rescues us once or twice, or several times in this game. He is a world-class goalkeeper and a person we must thank."
If Chelsea go all way and secure the title this season, more performances like that will no doubt be needed.