Football Features

Chelsea benefitting from Edouard Mendy’s Ballon d’Or snub? “If I had played for France…”

By Harry Edwards

Published: 12:40, 10 November 2021

Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has hit out at his snub on the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or.

The 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or was released in October, and five current Chelsea players were named including four of their Champions League-winning squad. Mason Mount, N’Golo Kante, Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho were all recognised for their exploits en route to Chelsea winning a second Champions League, with the latter among the favourites having also won Euro 2020 with Italy.

But while Azpilicueta and Mount may have been surprise names on the list, one man was conspicuous by his absence: Edouard Mendy.

The Senegalese shot-stopper was marvellous in helping Chelsea win the Champions League, keeping nine clean sheets in 12 appearances including one in the final but did not join Gianluigi Donnarumma on the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist. With Mendy on the pitch, Chelsea were behind for one minute and 56 seconds (they were behind for five minutes and 23 seconds overall), and that very short period of time came when the Blues were pretty much through — trailing Porto 1-0 in the second leg of their quarter-final tie after conceding late into injury time, but still leading 2-1 on aggregate.

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Mendy conceded just three goals in the Champions League last season, making 31 saves with a save percentage of 91.18. Only four players had a better percentage, but Diogo Costa, Zack Steffen, Adrian and Gianluigi Buffon (all 100%) made fewer than 10 saves as they were not their respective teams’ first-choice goalkeepers.

He hasn’t stopped there. This season, and this may be hard to believe, Mendy has been even better. It appears he has been fuelled by the Ballon d’Or snub, with Mendy telling Canal Plus via Wiw Sport: “It’s something that motivates me and pushes me to work. Honestly, I am wondering.

“If I had played for France and had taken part in the Euro, would we have this debate and this reflection?”

While the comments may be slightly hyperbolic, Mendy isn’t completely wrong to pose them. He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world right now and deserves recognition.

Did Mendy deserve a Ballon d’Or nomination?

During the 2021/22 campaign, Mendy has played 15 games for Chelsea across all competitions, missing just three matches due to injury and rotation. In that time, the Senegalese goalkeeper has conceded six goals (SIX. In 15 games). What’s more, just four of those goals have come from open play, with Mohamed Salah and James Ward-Prowse both beating Mendy from the spot. Obviously they all count but, for context, only 16.6% of Premier League penalties have been saved over the past six seasons.

And Mendy hasn’t necessarily kept nine clean sheets in the Premier League and Champions League this season because he has a solid defence in front of him, as could have been argued in the previous campaign.

In 14 games across both competitions mentioned above, Mendy has made 30 saves, just 14 fewer than he made in 23 matches under Tuchel last season. Per 90 minutes, Mendy has made 2.14 so far this season, compared to 1.96 under Tuchel in 2020/21.

When taking Expected Goals on Target into account, Mendy looks even better. xGOT measures the likelihood of an on-target shot resulting in a goal, based on the underlying chance quality (xG) and where the shot ends, so more weight is given to shots that end up in the corners than those that go straight down the middle.

In the Premier League and Champions League combined, Mendy has faced an xGOT of 8.11 and conceded five. So the Senegalese shot-stopper has prevented 3.11 goals in his 14 appearances across those two competitions this season, though the fact we are at an early stage dilutes the strength of this conclusion.

Among goalkeepers in Europe’s top five leagues, only six goalkeepers have prevented more goals than Mendy this season, with Marseille’s Pau Lopez the best, stopping 5.26 goals (12.16 xGOTC and seven goals conceded).

Save percentage has its limitations when measuring goalkeeper quality (chiefly that it doesn’t necessarily speak to the quality of shots faced). But we can say Mendy has kept out a higher percentage of those shots he’s faced than any other regular starter in his division. His record of 87.5% is higher than any Premier League goalkeeper to have played at least two matches in the division.

All told, though, a place on the shortlist would probably have been the best Mendy could have hoped for. His chances of winning the trophy would have been slim, from a historical perspective. Since the award was created only one goalkeeper has won the Ballon d’Or, with Lev Yashin receiving the accolade in 1963.

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