When FIFA 19 developers EA Sports released a Riyad Mahrez one to watch card on Ultimate Team there was a collective groan from the gaming community. It was seen by many as pointless considering it seemed a difficult task for the Algerian to establish himself in Pep Guardiola’s record-breaking team.
Confined to fleeting appearances from the bench earlier in the season, it would have been easy for Mahrez to sulk. However he took that challenge firmly in his stride and has since become a vital cog in Guardiola’s winning machine.
One question remains to be answered however, and that is can Riyhad Mahrez replicate his form from Leicester’s title winning season at the Etihad? We certainly think so, and here’s why.
The 27-year-old Algerian winger may not be the tallest at 5 foot 10, but he certainly packs a punch in physical duels. Mahrez’s strength underpins his ability to retain the ball in tight situations.
Further to this, he is never one to shy away from his physical responsibilities on the pitch as was shown in City’s recent 1-0 victory over Tottenham at Wembley. On City’s other wing is the immensely talented Raheem Sterling but his slight stature makes him a target for full-backs from lesser teams who are determined to ‘kick him out’ of the game.
This certainly won’t be the case for Mahrez and Guardiola will have known that when he secured the £66 million deal to take the stocky winger from the KingPower Stadium.
Moments of Inspiration
In the penultimate game of last season lowly Huddersfield Town became the first side since Chelsea in April 2014 to shut out a Premier League leader on their own patch. The Terriers secured their clean sheet by backs to the wall defending, which City had no answer to.
Riyhad Mahrez is the type of player that can score from distance with ease and take several opposition players out of the game with a mesmerising run. City did not have anyone in their ranks capable of that when they drew 0-0 with Huddersfield Town.
During his time in the East Midlands, Mahrez had a goal scoring record of roughly 1 in every 3 games. Strikers often target 1 in 2 as a reasonable tally to aim for, making Mahrez a prolific wide man.
Manchester City finished last season with 106 goals in the Premier League so they may not be in drastic need of more goals, but having Mahrez in their ranks won’t harm their cause.
What does Mahrez need to do to be a success at City?
Firstly the Algerian needs to rub his name off the penalty takers list. Mahrez has taken 15 penalties in his career, only scoring 9 of his spot-kicks. Significantly he blazed a penalty over the bar in the dying embers of City’s valiant 0-0 draw at Anfield earlier this autumn.
Regardless of his success in open play, if he continues to fail from the spot it may become the one thing he is remembered for at City rather than his spectacular long-range strikes and jinking runs.
Secondly Mahrez needs to assume the leadership role that he took on at Leicester City. Not in terms of being vocal on the pitch and in the dressing room, but in terms of leading by example on the pitch.
The Foxes encountered several difficult scenarios in their unprecedented run to the Premier League title and when they did, it was often Mahrez that stepped up to the plate and provided the impetus for his team to succeed.
In order to mirror his Leicester success, Mahrez will need to have a similar impact with Manchester City say by example, scoring a crucial last minute penalty against City’s greatest title rivals…
In all seriousness Mahrez will most probably need to make an impact in the Champions League this term if his debut season in Manchester is to be a success. At the moment Liverpool seem like City’s main rivals for the title, but Pep Guardiola will be confident of shaking of Klopp’s men.
After a season of domestic dominance European success is a must this campaign, and bookmakers seem to think City are the favourites in this year’s Champions League despite a difficult start when they lost at home to Lyon.
To win personal trophies such as player of the year or Ballon D’or it’s necessary to be talented, but it’s also necessary to be playing with some of the best players in the world. If Mahrez had of stayed at Leicester this season and performed brilliantly, he would still be unlikely to be nominated for the Ballon D’or or win Premier League Player of the Year.
Playing for the most high-profile and successful team in England, Mahrez will get the platform he deserves and be able to showcase his undoubted talent to the wider world.