Edouard Mendy might have been far from the highest profile of Chelsea’s legion of summer recruits, but he is already threatening to be the most influential.
Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech have added impetus to the Blues’ attack, while Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell are already starters in defence, but it is Mendy who has arguably had the most tangible difference in his first month at Stamford Bridge.
That is all the time it has taken him to displace Kepa Arrizabalaga, the most expensive goalkeeper ever when he signed from Athletic Bilbao for £71.6 million just two years ago.
Mendy has played six games for Frank Lampard’s side in the Premier League and the Champions League, and he has six clean sheets.
Kepa, meanwhile, has conceded six goals in the two games he has played since Mendy’s arrival for £22m from Ligue 1 side Rennes. Indeed, the Spaniard posts a save percentage of just 57, having kept out only eight of the shots that have troubled him this season.
By contrast, Mendy has not exactly been peppered, at least domestically. His three Premier League clean sheets have been achieved having faced just four shots, all of which came against Manchester United.
It was that fixture at Old Trafford that secured his status as his club’s undisputed No.1. He gave a man-of-the-match display in a scoreless draw, notably denying Marcus Rashford in the first half.
In Europe, meanwhile, he has been extended a little more consistently. Over three games, he has faced seven shots on target. All have been rebuffed.
On Wednesday, it was his former Rennes team-mates he denied, extending his shutout run to 547 minutes in all competitions. Only Tottenham’s Erik Lamela has beaten him since Mendy moved to Chelsea, doing so in a League Cup tie that the Blues lost on penalties.
Clement Grenier might have felt he was about to do so late in the midweek Champions League tie, but Mendy launched himself across goal to frustrate him.
Mendy has already won the trust of the defence, the great intangible for a goalkeeper. The difference in performance in the back four when he plays compared to Kepa is clear.
He’s brought confidence to those around him. What he’s shown has been very complete.Frank Lampard
“He’s brought confidence to those around him,” manager Frank Lampard said. “What he’s shown has been very complete.”
It should come as little surprise, then, that the goalkeeper is in possession of a rising Football Critic Ranking of 80, surpassing that of Kepa on 71.
A late bloomer, even in the world of goalkeeping, Mendy spent the 2014-15 season without a club, having been released by Cherbourg, and was considering his future in the game.
Marseille then snapped him up for their reserve team, yet he was second choice even there before Reims plucked him from obscurity. From there, his career has taken off exponentially, moving from the Champagne side to Rennes and then to Chelsea all within virtually a year.
Seemingly without a future barely five years ago, the 28-year-old is now preferred to the most expensive goalkeeper of all-time – and deservedly so.