Why Manchester City shouldn't have signed Riyad Mahrez
Manchester City have made their first summer acquisition when signing Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for a club record £60 million. City were after the Algerian international since last summer. The 27-year-old was on the radar of various English clubs including Manchester United and Arsenal. Thanks to City, he is now Africa's most expensive player.
Mahrez won the PFA Premier League Player of Year in 2015-16. He scored 17 goals and grabbed 11 assists, helping the Foxes win the league title against all the odds.
The next season, his form dipped massively. He scored only six goals and assisted three in the league. Speculations gathered when he requested a transfer and was denied. Last season, he was directly involved in 22 goals, undergoing a renaissance as he continued to push for an exit from the King Power.
Mahrez is a rare technically gifted player. He can create, capitalise, press and defend. His long balls from deep areas on the right flank were key to Jamie Vardy's incredible goal tally. Calm and composed in front of the goal, he won't hesitate to shoot from outside the box, either. Only Wilfried Zaha, Eden Hazard and Alexis Sanchez completed more take-ons than Mahrez. He has broken the ankles of quite a few defenders.
He makes 6 ball-recoveries per 90 in the league, demonstrating a tremendous work rate. Leicester City likes to sit back allows their opponents to take advantage of the possession. Mahrez's speed helps him to press from the forward line.
But, do the Citizens need him?
Man City have Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva as options to play to the right wing. Sterling just had a wonderful season. The England international was involved in 29 goals in the league. Silva too had a decent season but took time to settle with the pace of Premier League. Both are 23. City doesn't need any more right-wingers. But, they've signed Mahrez.
Mahrez is a very similar player to Bernardo, a left-footed inverted winger who drifts into a more central position. It is impossible to accommodate both of them satisfactorily; they occupy a position that requires maximum game time for proper development. Bernardo already faces competition with Sterling to occupy the right wing. With Mahrez's arrival, it has become a steep mountain for the Portuguese international to climb.
Riyad has the flexibility to play on the left when Leroy Sane rests, but it is not his natural game. He will not be as effective. If the situation makes him unhappy, that will lead to the same dressing room dismay that existed with Leicester.
Mahrez will find difficulty settling. He comes from a side who sit back and relax, ceding possession to hit on counters. Pep Guardiola prefers possession-based football. The only counterattack you will see from City follows a set-piece. The former Barcelona coach has a good reputation for evolving players according to his style of play. Even so, it's 50-50 whether Mahrez will fit.
There is no doubt Mahrez will bring depth to City's lineup which will help them in European competitions. But, to splash £60 million on a 27-year-old is just a waste of resources. They could have gone for cheaper options and set an example for other clubs in England. Signing Mahrez was unnecessary.
Brahim Diaz would have been a better investment, a younger player with more potential. Instead, Guardiola must strike the perfect balance with his parade of stars or deal with an unhealthy atmosphere at the Etihad.