Is Riyad Mahrez the answer for Arsenal?
Just a week after the FA Cup final victory, and already Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger is lining up transfers for next season. Well that’s if you believe all the rumours and stories published across the media network!
A player he has expressed a keen interest in is Leicester City’s playmaker Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian has been linked with a variety of clubs over the last few weeks including rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea as well as Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain. But where would he like to go? Well, it’s obvious he doesn’t want to stay at Leicester, isn’t it? The former PFA Player of the Year released a statement to the local press which read:
"Out of the huge admiration and respect I hold for Leicester City Football Club I wanted to be totally honest and transparent with them and have therefore informed the club that I feel now is the time for me to move on.
"I had a good discussion with the chairman last summer and we agreed at that time that I would stay for another year in order to help the club as best as I could following the transition of winning the title and in the Champions League.
"However, I am fiercely ambitious and feel that now is the time to move on to a new experience”
Riyad Mahrez’s words are not nice reading for Leicester City’s fans, but those words suggest the Chairman was expecting it? We don’t know if Manager Craig Shakespeare was, but if so, how much do Leicester City expect to receive for Mahrez? Well, he’s not going to come cheap, is he? Figures being branded about are around the £50 million mark, certainly not as cheap as the bargain £400,000 that he cost Leicester when he moved from French Ligue 2 side Le Havre in January 2014.
How has this season been for Riyad Mahrez? Not only did his team Leicester City fail to reach anywhere near the Premiership winning performances of the previous season, but the player struggled to live up to his strong reputation achieved from that title-winning season. He scored just 6 goals, a lot less than the 17 he scored when they won the Premiership in 2015/16. Add to that, the fact that he only assisted 3 goals, again a lot less than the 11 assists set previously. He seemed to keep his best performances for Leicester’s crack at the Champions league and it’s performances such as this that will have excited Arsene Wenger.
Mahrez excelled in the Champions League this season, with fans love for him even stronger after a season-best performance in the last-16 second-leg victory over Sevilla at the King Power Stadium. Overall, he managed four goals, and assisted two in nine Champions League games and his overall performances were much better than in the league. This led to him saying that he wanted to "play in the Champions League every season".
It’s not surprising that the winger dreams of doing this describing it as a “new experience", when referring to Leicester playing in Europe's elite competition. But that consistency is something he would need to show Wenger and Arsenal in the Premiership as well, in order to be a success for the Gunners! But Arsene is definitely interested in the player telling beIN Sports:
“We have not made a bid for him but personally I like the player, yes.
“I think he had a huge impact at Leicester when they won the championship, like everybody else. It's been a different season this year but it doesn't take anything away from his qualities.
“Have we made a bid for him? No. Not yet. Not yet means it could happen, it could not happen."
The issue could be the fee as £50 million is a lot for a club to pay for a player who has struggled for consistency this season. However, Mahrez still has 3 years left on his contract so Leicester aren’t in any panic to sell and it would take a substantial bid to force their hand. The question must be asked, why did Riyad sign a new 4-year contract last August if he knew he’d would want to leave come the end of the season? And if so, why not agree a release clause in your contract?
This is a player who won the ‘PFA Player of the Year Award’ in the end of the 2015/16 season, and in doing so became the first ever African player to win it. He was also the cheapest player to win the award for almost a quarter of a century. Leicester City Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha mustn’t have believed his luck after spending just £400,000 on him!
Arsene Wenger has signed a new two-year contract but he must challenge for the Premiership. He has already revealed that he wants “top, top quality” signings so why many Arsenal fans were probably dreaming of unrealistic signings such as Messi or Griezmann, is Mahrez really the sort of signing that meets such requirements? Wenger needs players to come in and make an immediate impact, would Riyad be capable of doing so?
Spending £50 million at such an early stage of the Summer would certainly show ambition to the fans and prove that the board are 100 percent behind their Manager! Could he play with Sanchez or Ozil? Or, would this mean that either of them being shown the exit door? Surely not, but Mahrez would be an interesting signing. If Leicester teammate Jamie Vardy hadn’t rejected a move to the Emirates a year ago, then they could have been teammates at Arsenal, there’s a thought for you!
Time will tell if Wenger signing on for 2-years was the answer, but a £50 million signing must work come the start of the new season. I think it’s fair to say that Mahrez certainly has the ability although he doesn’t decide the transfer fee. But Arsenal fans wait with baited breath to see if he is the 1st of many signings to help improve the Gunners and one which will help to ensure a title challenge is on the cards for 2017/18.