Riyad Mahrez can propel Manchester City to greater heights this season
As opposed to the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, Manchester City did not spend too much in the summer transfer window. Pep Guardiola only spent £60million in the summer to acquire the services of Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City.
And the 27-year-old has proven himself to be a perfect fit for Pep Guardiola’s style of play at Manchester City.
The Algerian international rose to prominence during the 2015-16 season, playing a vital role in Leicester’s Premier League triumph where he contributed with 17 goals and 11 assists. He followed it up with another successful season last term where he registered 12 goals and 10 assists.
His stellar performances for the Foxes were enough to earn him a move to the Etihad, despite the fact that City had Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane as options in the wide areas.
However, Guardiola has been quite specific with his man management this season. When he signed Mahrez in the summer, it seemed like he would face a tough time accommodating all his star players in the first-team.
Well, Mahrez hasn’t suffered from any lack of play time at Manchester City. Guardiola has backed him right from the start, handing him a start ahead of Leroy Sane in the opening game against Arsenal. And the 27-year-old hasn’t disappointed his manager at all.
Mahrez has scored 4 goals in the Premier League this term and has been a lively presence down the right-hand side of City’s 4-3-3 formation.
The Algerian has averaged 2.4 shots per game this term in the Premier League, which is already more than what he averaged during his stint at Leicester City.
As evident from their style of play, the Citizens play an open game outlined by free-flowing aesthetic football – a system that has extracted the best out of all the wingers in the team. Guardiola’s style of play necessitates the wingers to cut inside from the flanks with the full-backs making frequent overlapping runs to support the attack.
Operating as an inverted winger down the right, Mahrez has not only added impetus to the attack with his pace and guile but has also troubled the opposition with his tactical awareness.
He uses his instincts to get into the right place and at the right time, which was quite evident from his goal against Tottenham where he made a superb run from a deeper area to get on the end of Raheem Sterling’s cut-back from the left.
However, things haven’t been easy for the Algerian at Manchester City. He was at the receiving end of a lot of criticism when he missed that million dollar penalty against Liverpool.
That, however, did not stop Guardiola from handing him a start in the next game against Burnley. The Algerian regained his confidence with a superb display, scoring a goal in the dying stages of the game.
Playing in a team filled with many top-quality players has had a major impact on Mahrez’s statistics. He wasn’t renowned for moving the ball around with short passes but he has improved on that this season. In fact, he has averaged 33.8 passes per game with an accuracy percentage of 85.8, which is more than what he averaged in any of his seasons with Leicester.
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Quite clearly, Riyad Mahrez’s recruitment has made Manchester City all the more potent in the final third. He has already hit the ground running this season and is likely to have a more significant impact on the proceedings as the season wears on.