What would Riyad Mahrez bring to Arsenal FC
Another summer, another season beckons, as the Premier League gears up for another hectic season, which will have the necessary ingredients of fun, drama, pain, and anguish. The Premier League, as usual, is awash with a heady concoction of emotions. The characters have already started their rehearsals in the form of pre-season friendlies and various other audience drawing tournaments across the globe.
Now that the season opener is drawing closer, the questions of the missing piece, the final element to deliver a title at the Emirates is already under discussion. Riyad Mahrez has been a supposed target for Arsene Wenger, and on paper, looks like a player who would fit seamlessly into the Gunners’ team.
What does Mahrez bring into any team and would he be a fit in the Arsenal starting line-up. Let’s have a look.
Mahrez’s style of play
As Paul Doyle, of the Guardian, points out, Mahrez has developed an anarchic savviness that makes him an eccentric player at times. His frame has been one of the primary reasons why several clubs were cautious from investing in him. Leicester City, was one of the few clubs who took that gamble and it has turned out to be spectacular. From the fringes in his first Premier League season, Mahrez went on to win the PFA Player of the season in his second full season, an accolade which no one will begrudge.
Young, technically gifted, a team player and potential for further growth and even further in value, investing in Mahrez makes sense from even the financial aspect.
As for the position that will be well suited for – his primary position is that of a right winger cutting in and shooting/crossing with his left. His ability to find his own teammates in the blink of an eye, be it a through pass or a dink, lob, short and long passes makes him a valuable addition to any team. While he doesn’t possess the pace like Walcott, his trickery and quick feet - an example being the goal he scored against Chelsea, where he held on to the ball and kept on shuffling it around till he found the perfect position to shoot – makes him a terror for opposing defenders.
Similarly, the goal against Manchester City where he had the guile and confidence to finish so calmly with his right foot was a moment when the balance shifted from ordinary to world class.
Fitting Mahrez into the team
Decision making is another key attribute which, at times, it seems Arsene Wenger has failed to develop in Theo Walcott. For years and seasons, Arsenal fans have waited for Walcott to fulfil his potential, but sadly that season still hasn’t arrived. Like Diaby, it seems Walcott’s career might just peter out because of injuries and inconsistency. Injuries aside, there have been moments where Walcott has failed to justify his presence in the team.
Walcott’s role with Arsenal has always been that of a squad player. Wenger’s reluctance to use him as a striker has not been successful. The player himself, though, has insisted that striker role is his best position. Even the role of a conventional striker may not be suited to Walcott, as he hardly runs between the lies and his ability lies in running with the ball rather than off the ball - which is the hallmark of strikers of his ilk.
Mahrez’s presence on the right wing will give Arsenal the option of swapping Sanchez and him, as per the match demands. With both wingers cutting in inside, it will also give full freedom to the full backs to put in crosses and get more bodies in the box. Tactically and defensively, while it might catch Arsenal on the counter, the two defensive bodies along with the centre backs should be able to keep out the crosses.
Arsenal though do not lack in midfielders, so fitting Mahrez into the team will be challenging as well. Wilshire, Ramsey, Cazorla and Chamberlain are already present, along with the others.
A man not short of ambition, Mahrez has moved and made career decisions wisely. From his days at Sarcelle, then at Quimper, the French non-league club to a Premier League winner’s medal, he has made decisions which have given him the license to thrive rather than quell him.
Moving to another club must be a tough decision for Mahrez – transferring from the champions to a club which hasn’t won the league in more than a decade is a difficult choice to make. He has already become the darling of his nation and his club, Leicester City, and very few will begrudge him if he moves to the Emirates.
Leicester City, though, would want him around, especially with Champions League on offer. Mahrez will surely start all of Leicester’s games in the Champion’s League, injury and form permitting, while at the Emirates, he might not be guaranteed that and that is the only thing that may play on his mind.