Fabian Delph was the surprise unsung hero of City’s record-breaking season, after the extent of Mendy’s injuries was discovered and he was required to step in. However, with Mendy back in the squad and firing, where will Fab find himself this season?
Take yourselves back to early last season. September 23rd, City welcomed Crystal Palace to the Etihad for what turned out to be another routine 5-0 win for the blues with Fabian coming off the bench and grabbing the fifth. An uncharacteristic right-footed strike clipping the woodwork on its way into the top corner from around 20 yards out, setting off what went on to be an emphatic season for the Fabian. However, it was the incident which led to Fabian being introduced to the game which caught the back pages rather than the performance itself.
After an awkward landing after a duel with Palace’s Andros Townsend and what were originally hopeful signs as Benjamin Mendy was able to hobble off the pitch without the need of a stretcher, however, tests in Barcelona showed that he had ruptured his Anterior Cruciate Ligament and would likely miss the rest of the season. Missing Mendy for the duration of the season, Pep, his team and fans alike were justifiably worried about how the blues will cope for the season without a recognized left-back to fill in.
Up-Step Fabian Delph.
Fabian’s 17/18 season
Despite Fabian’s known versatility, before the start of the season, the idea of him being able to perform as a top left back for even a short period of time would have raised a few eyebrows. However, no one could have seen Fabian perform as well as he did out of his natural position for the vast majority of the season, going above and beyond all expectations for a player who’s job to just fill in and cope as well as possible in different circumstances by many. comparing his stats to the other experienced and accomplished left backs performing at top premier league clubs, he seems to surpasses their performances making a strong argument as the best left-back in the league last year.
Where will Fabian fit in this season?
With many believing that with Benjamin returning to full fitness could see a significant reduction in playing time for Fabian this season, will Fabian’s city career slowly dwindle away, or does the Yorkshire man still have an important role to play at the blues this season?
Aside from his recent set back which has seen Benjamin Mendy sidelined for the past couple games, in these early stages of this season the Parisian fan favourite has looked fitter than ever while putting in some of the most complete wing-back performances the league has seen. With four assists in the opening four games and countless charges forward followed by an inch-perfect cross, his attacking play has been marvelled at by fans and pundits alike. While despite few shaky moments at the back, he’s looked solid defensively to go with his attacking prowess.
However, although Fabian doesn’t hold the same ability as Benjamin to get up and down the left flank with such effectiveness and deliver the same pin-perfect cross which sending panic into opposition defenders and goalkeepers alike, there is a lot to Fabian’s game which he holds over Mendy and cannot be ignored. Delph’s ability to come inside off the left flank when in possession both free up space for Leroy Sane on the left to work his magic, whilst releasing pressure on the likes of Silva, De Bruyne and Gundogan of their defensive duties, allowing them to get higher up the pitch and do what they do best.
We’ve seen Mendy attempt to play this role at times during the early stages of the season with far less success than Fabian. Ultimately, without the ability to keep the ball in tight spaces like Delph, nor the positional intelligence of Delph, Fabian offers an alternative option at left back which may see him picked over Mendy on occasion throughout the season when tactically beneficial.
These stats gathered compare some of the defensive and possession-based stats of Mendy and Delph again offer an insight into how the two players offer very different options at left-back. Defensively Delph has the upper hand in terms of the quality of tackling last season wear as Mendy averaged a better return on the number of interceptions and more capable in the air.
The attributes each player possesses as well as their differing tactical approaches are represented in the attacking and possession-based stats gathered. Delph providing a better return in his ability to retain possession as well as playing forward passes from his deeper role, wear as Mendy possesses a much clearer direct threat in the final third, offering far more key passes going forward and creating significantly more chances.
Last season Delph was often credited as ‘filling in well for Mendy’ or ‘doing his job good enough’, almost as if he had done the bare minimum to prevent City’s lack of a recognized left back from becoming too big a problem. Frankly, this is a complete injustice to Fabian who after a tricky start to his city career played above expectations, whilst having to adapt to a position alien to him, outperforming the league’s other top left backs playing a vital role in a team who completed the most successful and dominant premier league season to date.
By no means is this article trying to say that I believe that Delph is a better player than Mendy or criticize Benjamin in anyways, however I do believe that to describe Fabian as simply being a backup left back for whenever Mendy gets a niggle or a versatile squad player who can fill in and do the job where needed, does the Bradford native a complete disservice.
Delph still plays a vital role at City this season. Tactically he offers something completely different to the explosive Mendy and with the guidance of Pep and his team I am sure that we will get to see both Fabian and Benjamin at their best throughout the season to overcome the demands placed by different oppositions while benefiting the rest of the team.