Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez hasn’t yet been given the opportunity to kickstart his career at the club, but the Carabao Cup Final is the perfect time to make himself a hero.
The Algerian became the club’s record signing when he switched from Leicester for £67m in the summer, but so far the jury’s still very much out on whether he can become a key component in this City machine. He’s only made 11 Premier League starts this season after 27 games, so he’s never had a run in the team to establish himself.
He seems like a one-trick pony most of the time, cutting in on his left foot and aiming to hit the top left corner, but, as we know with Arjen Robben, it’s good enough to have one skill if you’re too good to stop. This issue with Mahrez is that he’s not been playing regular football so these moves just are coming off like they were at Leicester.
The 27-year-old is certainly not in Pep Guardiola’s strongest 11, with Raheem Sterling and Bernando Silva miles ahead of him in the pecking order on current technical ability. But if Mahrez was to start in the cup final, he could gain the confidence needed to be back to his best, and City need him at that brilliant best if they are to go far in every other competition.
There will be games where City’s other wingers aren’t firing and Mahrez is needed, so it’s important he gets an opportunity at Wembley, whether that be from the bench or the unlikelihood of a starting stop. He’s trying too hard at the moment and a goal to seal City the cup would take the weight off his shoulders.
City defend in large spaces and attack in small ones, something Mahrez wasn’t used to at Leicester. They’d counter-attack and it’d give him the chance to run towards defenders at pace, but when playing for Guardiola defenders are tight and compact, restricting the Algerian from doing what he does best.
The only way his manager can allow Mahrez to get used to the system is to play him, and there’s no better place to get confidence from than Wembley Stadium.
Do you think Mahrez can be a success at City?