Ferland Mendy has made David Alaba even more dangerous

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David Alaba has had no trouble adjusting to life at Real Madrid. The new No. 4 has been sensational since Matchday 1, and he wrote the first chapter this past weekend in what could be a legendary book in Madrid. With the game cagey at 0-0, Alaba took it upon himself to charge into the final third and unleash a devastating shot to the far post that left Marc Andre ter Stegen with no chance. The goal gave Real the confidence they needed to control the game more, and they eventually won their fourth straight Clasico 4-0.

To his left, Ferland Mendy also played a key role in this Clasico, despite being beaten by Sergino Dest on Barcelona’s goal, just as he did on Tuesday night in his incredible return from injury against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Mendy is the best defensive fullback in football. He gives Real Madrid so much more stability as a team. Madridistas know Mendy won’t be breached defensively or make positional errors. He is one of the most astute defenders of the flank you’ll ever see, and he couples that with arduous ball-carrying to support the attack.

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That makes him a perfect complement for Alaba. The Austrian center back is a left back by trade and impeccable in the build-up. He is completing 91.4 percent of his passes in LaLiga and 93.7 percent in the Champions League. As we saw against Barcelona, he is more than capable of producing attacking moments of magic that nobody else can at the center back position.

The best of David Alaba is still yet to come

In 2019-2020, Alaba made the transition to center back at Bayern Munich and was the best defender in the Bundesliga that season. He even helped Bayern win the treble under Hansi Flick, elevating a couple of defender around him who have since been exposed for not meeting the standards of the club (Benjamin Pavard, for example).

What makes Alaba so good defensively is his reading of the game, his one-on-one defending, and his ability to aggressively win the ball higher up the pitch. Bayern’s attack was so lethal and capable of creating so many clear-cut chances for Robert Lewandowski and the other forwards, precisely because Alaba could win the ball directly in favorable areas or press someone into a mistake that a teammate would capitalize on.

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With Mendy on the left flank, Alaba can start winning the ball more frequently. Eder Militao has always been there in the Raphael Varane role, cleaning things up and covering like an absolute boss. Now with Mendy as a better defensive option to Miguel Gutierrez and a more disciplined option to Nacho Fernandez (a center back by trade), Alaba can have more freedom to pass, run with the ball, and (when reasonable) make interceptions or tackles higher up the pitch.

As MARCA’s Pablo Polo writes, Mendy gives Alaba more of a license to join the attack. And that could mean more moments like the goal at Barcelona.

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Alaba and Mendy have the left side of the defense locked down, and they are also beneficial in the attack together. Mendy provides the width and running, while Alaba can operate in the channels and spray dangerous passes, which we did see one example of in El Clasico.

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We talk a lot about center back pairings, and Real Madrid do have a great one in Alaba and Militao. But the former Bayern man is now part of another excellent pairing, in the form of a partnership between himself as the left center back and Mendy as the left back. With two games under their belt as a duo, it will be exciting to see how they carry that momentum before a real gauntlet of fixtures emerges in late November, beginning with Sevilla and ending with Atletico Madrid.

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