In a recent interview with beIn Sports, when questioned about the possibility of signing Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez, Arsene Wenger replied: “Have we made a bid for him? No. Not yet. Not yet means it could happen, it could not happen.”
Although this was a somewhat vague response by the Arsenal manager, it was also a strong hint that Wenger may indeed be interested in signing the winger.
In the 2015/16 season, in which Leicester City shocked the whole world by winning the Premier League title in one of the greatest triumphs in the history of English football, Mahrez scored 17 goals and provided 11 assists in 33 appearances on route to becoming the first African to win the PFA player of the year award.
The Algerian played a crucial role in Leicester’s triumph, scoring vital goals in games which truly mattered against Manchester City and Chelsea.
On an individual note, he received accolades other than the PFA player of the year, notably being crowned the BBC African footballer of the year, ahead of the likes of Aubameyang, Sadio Mane and Yaya Toure, and finishing 7th in the Ballon d’or vote.
Not an impressive campaign
The Leicester City and Algeria winger had a less impressive 2016/17 season, with 6 goals and 3 assists. The rest of the Leicester squad were also underwhelming to say the least, finishing 12th in the table following a title triumph the previous season.
However, they embarked upon an impressive run to the Champions League quarter finals, where they were edged out 2-1 against an excellent Diego Simeone – led Atletico Madrid side, putting in a spirited performance over two legs.
It is also worth noting that despite Mahrez’s underwhelming season, he contributed 4 goals and 2 assists in 9 Champions League performances, proving that he can still be an important player in big games.
Nevertheless, this slight dip in form has not affected Wenger’s views on the winger as a player, as Wenger went on to say in his interview: “It’s been a different season this year but it doesn’t take anything away from his qualities.”
The Algerian is a left footed player who largely plays wide right for Leicester and has been gifted with natural pace and the undisputed ability to fly past defenders with ease.
Still suitable for Arsenal’s style and formation
Arsene Wenger recently started using a 3-4-2-1 formation, which brought an impressive winning run for the team in the closing stages of the season. If Wenger decides to stick with this formation next season, then signing the Mahrez would definitely be a good idea.
England International striker Danny Welbeck, although proving his importance in the FA cup final, may have to be substituted to the bench for the winger to be brought in and Sanchez could play up front.
Mahrez is a tricky player with pace who is very creative and can add fluency in play to the attack, which is exactly what is required for Arsenal if this formation is to remain. The Algerian can play on both the left and right wing.
He can also both score and assist goals, which draws comparisons with Arsenal legend Robert Pires from the ‘Invincibles’ squad. Arsenal would be provided with more width in attack if the winger was to be acquired.
In the ‘Invincibles’ season, Arsenal won 26 games and drew 12, going through the whole Premier League season unbeaten. In total, they went on a 49 game unbeaten run.
This feat had never been achieved before by any team and with the increased competition in the modern day Premier League and the significant funding available to all the teams, this achievement may never be repeated again.
Could form a lethal partnership with Sanchez
This was achieved whilst playing brilliant flowing football of the highest quality.
The ‘Invincibles’ were the greatest team to ever grace the Premiership and one of the best teams of all time.
During this record breaking season, Arsenal had two world class wingers in Pires and Freddie Ljungberg. The contributions of these two players towards the team’s great run was unquestionable.
Pires was a secondary source of goals for Arsenal behind Thierry Henry, just as the Algeria winger was for Leicester behind Jamie Vardy. Pires scored 14 goals and had 10 assists, and formed a dangerous partnership with Henry which was very difficult for opposition teams to contain.
The partnership between Mahrez and Alexis Sanchez, who scored 24 Premier League goals last season, would be a lethal one indeed, not to mention the assists provided by Mesut Ozil.
However, this all depends on the ongoing speculation surrounding the new contracts of current key players Sanchez and Ozil.
A step in the right direction
If Arsenal can secure new contracts with these players, and potentially sign the 26-year-old Algerian, the prospect of these players leading the Arsenal attack together is a mouthwatering one.
Although it is definitely worth noting that signing the winger alone would not win Arsenal the title, and other signings would be required as well as offloading some of the current players, acquiring Mahrez would definitely be a step in the right direction towards a first Premier league title triumph since “The Invincibles” in the 2003/4 season.
Written by Sina Latif
Follow Sina on Twitter @_sina93
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