Position(s): DM, CM, CB
Preferred Foot: Right
Strengths: physicality, ball-carrying, technical security, aerial duels, passing
Areas for Development: technical ability, anticipation
After finishing eight points clear atop the Süper Lig table and winning their first league title in 38 years, Trabzonspor suffered a dismal title defense that would see them finish sixth, resulting in significant upheaval with the club’s chairman and manager resigning from their respective positions in quick succession. Trabzonspor appointed Croatian manager Nenad Bjelica, whose time at Osijek and Dinamo Zagreb has indicated the usage of a possession-based system that demands the involvement of the full backs – a system which is greatly benefitted by the presence of an imposing yet technical defensive midfielder to offer protection.
Enter: Batista Mendy.
Born in Saint-Nazaire, France to Bissau-Guinean parents, Mendy came through Nantes’ academy, making his professional debut in a 2-1 loss to Monaco on September 13, 2020, before departing for Angers the following year. He emerged as a regular in midfield for Les Scoïstes, who placed 14th in 2021/22 before finishing bottom with 18 points and returning to Ligue 2 after eight years in the top-flight. Rather than stick around in the second tier, Mendy has made the move to Turkey for €4.4m, leaving France for the first time in his life, yet another high-profile arrival for the Black Sea Storm alongside Southampton duo Mislav Oršić and Paul Onuachu and former Arsenal record-signing Nicolas Pépé.
Mendy is a strong ball-winning midfielder with 2.20 tackles per 90. At 6’3”, his physical frame enables him to be the anchor in midfield and, demonstrably, he has an impressive 69.8% of dribblers tackled (top 1%) and only 0.50 challenges lost (top 3%). It is crucial to note that while Mendy’s physicality is a key draw, he offers far more than just this to Trabzonspor. The number six in a Nenad Bjelica team is very often tasked with creative responsibilities from deep positions.
At Osijek, Bjelica often instructed his number six to drop between the centre backs in the build-up and either the six or the centre backs would take advantage of the numerical superiority they had in the build-up to dribble into advanced positions and look for runs from the attackers. Mendy is a technically secure anchor with good passing.
Whilst playing for a team that finished 20th, Mendy got an 86.2% pass completion rate and only 0.76 miscontrols per 90. This is promising because when playing for a lower-possession team, it’s much harder to get a high pass completion percentage. One of the ways that Mendy plays progressive passes is through line-breaking passes. He loves to play through the opponent’s defensive structure to advance the attacks. Mendy’s passing range is wide as he has great long passing and when creating space for himself through carrying the ball he will look up and look to ping a switch to the opposite side winger.
The Frenchman’s passing is key in progressing the ball for Angers as he was averaging 6.14 progressive passes (72nd percentile), which, while seemingly unimpressive, is still very high for a defensive midfielder in a lower possession team. For example, Moisés Caicedo has 6.28 progressive passes in an extremely possession-heavy Brighton team.
Moreover, Mendy is an aerial threat in attack and defensively, winning a significant number of his aerial duels. Mendy has a low number of aerial duels lost (0.41) giving him a high percentage of 67.5% (top 3%). However, when you look at how many aerial duels he wins (0.85) it’s clear that the fact Mendy doesn’t engage in a lot of aerial duels which can inflate his numbers. But his physicality implies that his numbers would still be good if he engaged in more aerial duels.
Ball-carrying is one of Mendy’s strengths, he is great on the ball and the data appears to back this up unrefutably. He has a 62.3% successful take-on rate, making the ratio 1.92 attempted/1.20 successful. Again, these numbers have the potential to rise due to being at a team with a low possession (46.7%) where there are fewer opportunities to show off his great ball-carrying ability. But his underlying ability is still clear to see.
When discussing potential problem areas for Mendy, his anticipation is middling and could be strengthened in order to become a top-class defensive midfielder. His 0.66 interceptions per 90 put him in a very low percentile (19th). Therefore, it is evident that Mendy does require some development in this area to become a complete defensive midfielder.
This should develop over time too as he becomes more experienced. However, again these numbers are lower due to another factor. The main number six in Angers’ system last season was Nabil Bentaleb who has 1.59 interceptions per 90 (88th percentile), demonstrating that Mendy was not tasked with this particular defensive responsibility for Angers.
After beginning September with a 5-1 win at Kasımpaşa, Trabzonspor took an early two-goal lead via goals from Paul Onuachu and Anastasios Bakasetas before tripling their lead within the hour-mark via Edin Višća to secure a 3-0 win against Beşiktaş. They sit fourth in the table, level on 9 points with Kasımpaşa, one point behind Çaykur Rizespor and Galatasaray, and three behind Fenerbahçe, and they’ll be looking to continue their impressive form next Monday against Hatayspor, who sit 10th.
Mendy started in the double pivot alongside Bakasetas and played the full 90, enjoying an impressive debut for Trabzonspor with two tackles, two clearances, one foul won, three out of seven ground duels won and one shot off target, hitting the woodwork from another effort, and remaining composed and disciplined despite playing with a yellow for the final 40 minutes. He completed 13 out of 17 passes, including one out of one long ball, and showed his tenacious nature off the ball with three fouls.
While Mendy’s development as a player is tangible, it is still ongoing. Time will certainly tell if Mendy’s strengths will be exhibited under Nenad Bjelica at Trabzonspor and if his problem areas will be addressed. Without a doubt, though, the next few years will be critical in the career of Batista Mendy.
By: Louis Young / @FrontPostPod
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / FEP / Icon Sport