Mahrez hasn’t changed, Leicester have


Riyad Mahrez –

Many claim that Riyad Mahrez has lost his hunger, that he is a completely different player to last season, but this blog would contest that.

Although he and Leicester achieved incredible things the previous year, the 25-year-old’s displays in the second half of that campaign can be romanticized. He produced moments of magic, like his great performance at Man City and his wonder-goal at Vicarage Road, but generally dipped in form and faded in and out of a lot of games.

Leicester’s wins after Christmas was largely down to stubborn team defending and consistent clean sheets, rather than good attacking play. The team only scored 29 goals in the final 21 games, which equates to 18 in 13 – two more than they have scored this year.

Mahrez’s performance levels have remained the same and in some cases, he has been one of the few players providing a spark of pace and creativity. He was excellent in comfortable wins over Burnley and Crystal Palace. He was arguably Leicester’s best player in the defeat to West Brom, in the second half of which he tore apart Nyom, then scored a penalty against Middlesbrough last week.

The games in which he has had less of an impact have often been against the big teams when Claudio Ranieri has played two up top. Mahrez has always been the type of wide man that wants to push forward. In the title-winning season, he could do that because Shinji Okazaki dropped into midfield, N’Golo Kante covered a lot of ground and the whole team was made of iron will.

This season, Mahrez’s teammates are not showing the same energy and drive that allowed him the creative freedom he had last season. The system looks more like a classic 4-4-2 and the Algerian is playing essentially as a second full-back in a long ball team, which is not his game.

The talent that Mahrez showed in the first half of last season – and patches of the second half – has not gone, but Leicester must find a system that enables it to shine through.


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