How Riyad Mahrez adds a new dimension to Manchester City
Written by: Rohan Philip
The former Leicester City winger had a slow start to life with the Cityzens but is gaining in prominence within Pep Guardiola's plans.
When the champions of the Premier League, Manchester City opened up their wallets yet again in the summer following their historic victory of the league by a massive 19 points, for Leicester City’s talismanic winger, Riyad Mahrez, it was not hard to label the acquisition as nothing more than a luxury buy.
However, that is not how Pep Guardiola works. While the Cityzens may have captivated and enthralled the fans of the English game domestically, humbling losses in the Champions League troubled the perfectionist, Guardiola. He knew that a squad that depends wholly on their first team would struggle to make it to the pinnacle of club football and so he had to act.
Mahrez was brought into the side following their failed pursuit of Alexis Sanchez who signed for City’s local rivals Manchester United in January. Guardiola’s side deployed a brand of football that was almost hypnotic to the eyes and that was heavy laden with goals. One of the most prolific members of that City side, Raheem Sterling looks to be the one who will be most threatened by the arrival of the Algerian winger.
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Despite scoring 23 goals in the 2017-2018 season, Sterling has reportedly failed to convince his boss of his quality. Mahrez, who would comfortably slot into the Englishman’s position may not score as many goals but has brought a new spark to the already glittering City attack
Mahrez made his name in the English Premier League as a flying winger who could provide his side genuine width on the right-hand side, while also cutting in onto his wand of a left boot to score some truly wonderful goals. By stretching sides on the right, the Algerian will inevitably drag a defender out of position, opening up spaces in the final third of the pitch.
It is on these spaces that the creative likes of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne thrive. In the 2017-2018 season, De Bruyne provided a mammoth 19 assists from a slightly deeper midfield position. The Belgian specializes in finding gaps in opposition defences and threading perfectly weighted balls through them into the paths of on-rushing attackers.
pride the arabs 26???????????????? pic.twitter.com/s2fF81lu0K— 9m.26???????? (@M2638609305) October 30, 2018
Riyad scored the winner against Tottenham last week
In the Community Shield game against Chelsea, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden were deployed in midfield roles in the absence of the Belgian. The two creators found their job made easy for them as Mahrez continually dragged Marcos Alonso and David Luiz out of position.
Apart from his wide play, Mahrez has also proven to be lethal in front of goal especially in his former side's title winning campaign in 2015. If Guardiola can coax the goal scorer out of this incredibly gifted footballer, as he has done so often in the past, City would look like favourites, not only in the Premier League but also in Europe.
Manchester City were widely touted as favorites to ease through the Premier League, just as they did last season. However, the Cityzens haven't found it as easy as it seemed. The team from Manchester dropped early points to Wolves and were taken to the brink by a spirited Newcastle side.
City's average touch map showed that Mahrez spent a majority of his time on the touchline on the far right in an attempt to send the defence into disarray. While he's been far from his best, the Algerian has shown glimpses of the magic that brought him to the Ethiad.
Guardiola's issues with Leroy Sane could also see Mahrez adopt a more permanent role in the side as the season progresses.
It is imperative that Mahrez stakes his claim to a starting spot in the side, making himself the new talisman of the side. If he does so and the scintillating form he is in at the moment, City will posses one of best-attacking line ups in world football and the rest of the league will have to be at the very top of their respective games to keep up.
Published: Wed Oct 31, 2018 06:13 PM IST