Mahrez out to prove he is not the odd Man out at City
Riyad Mahrez has found starts hard to come by at Manchester City this season
As Erling Haaland makes his mark at Manchester City, last season’s top scorer seems a forgotten man. Riyad Mahrez netted 24 goals in all competitions in 2021-22 but has started only six of 13 games this term.
Strikes in the routs of FC Copenhagen and Southampton were a timely reminder of his talents as the trickster fights for consistent minutes, We look at what the future holds for the Algerian winger ahead of City’s trip to the Danish capital this evening.
Saturday’s start was Mahrez’s first in the Premier League since the 4-2 victory over Crystal Palace. On that day, City looked out of sorts and were 2-1 down when the 31-year-old was hauled off on the hour mark
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It was a similar story in the first Champions League home game of the year, when Mahrez came off as Borussia Dortmund enjoyed a 1-0 advantage. Pep Guardiola’s side went on to win that contest 2-1 and both are indicative of the difficult opening two months of Mahrez’s season, in which he has only scored twice.
Pep Guardiola has talked up Riyad Mahrez in the past week
Pep Guardiola has never been a manager to throw his players under the bus no matter how they are performing. After the Southampton win, he said: “He is getting better. He made a magnificent goal. He missed one but scored a great goal. He is getting better. “Training is good, day in and day out. Be fit and after he will be back.”
Down the pecking order
The problem for Mahrez is while may be improving in Guardiola’s mind, so are the Spaniard’s other options. Phil Foden, 22, is a near-guaranteed starter in City’s biggest games these days as his development continues at pace.
Last summer’s big signing Jack Grealish, 27, is starting to look every inch a Citizen and even when the England international was struggling with injuries, 28-year-old Bernardo Silva was deployed out wide.
Then there is 22-year-old Argentine forward Julian Alvarez, who was preferred to Mahrez in the 6-0 thrashing of Nottingham Forest, and academy product Cole Palmer, 20, to contend with.
Despite the summer departures of Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling, Mahrez’s minutes have disappeared.
At 31, the winger is beginning to look like the odd man out with a whole host of younger stars coming to the fore.
Riyad Mahrez has only found the back of the net twice this term
It may be a small sample size, but Mahrez is underperforming compared to last term in many metrics.
Over the 2021-22 season, he averaged 0.76 goals, 0.29 assists, 3.83 shots and 0.29 big chances created, as well as completing 1.49 take-ons per 90 minutes.
Mahrez has not matched any of those figures so far this time around, with his average of 0.38 goals per game the biggest drop.
This all comes despite having more touches of the ball, which suggests the Algerian is not showing the quality required when he is in possession.
Take the chances
Mahrez has been at City long enough to know that if they continue to fight on four fronts, the opportunities to impress will be there.
It may be a frustrating next month for the Algerian as Guardiola uses him off the bench or starts him in Champions League games with progress near certain.
But Mahrez is a rarity in City’s squad in that he will not be in Qatar competing at the World Cup during November and December.
That means he can be fresh, fit and firing when domestic football resumes on Boxing Day, ready to try and cement on spot in his boss’ first-choice XI.
Further on from that, the departures of Jesus and Sterling were a reminder that Guardiola is not afraid to sell previously influential players.
The summer of 2023 could well bring an end to Mahrez’s five-year stay at the Etihad.