Why Mahrez Will Be A Perfect Fit In The New Arsenal System
“Have we made a bid for him? No. Not yet. Not yet means it could happen, it could not happen.” – Arsene was at his philosophical best when asked whether he would be interested in Mahrez. It is an open secret that Arsene is a big fan of the Algerian magician and was one of the reasons why Leicester had to tie him down to a new contract last year.
Things have changed so much in a year though. From defending champions, Leicester have now migrated to the mid-table. From fan favourite, Mahrez has turned disposable. After a sizzling season of 17 goals and 11 assists during Leicester’s march to the title, the stats came down to 10 goals and 5 assists last season even when there were increased number of games. Despite the relatively low numbers, rumours are that Arsene is still interested in Mahrez.
Arsene has successfully switched to a 3-4-2-1 formation with glowing results. But the problem is, the new system doesn’t support wingers and needs wing backs. Unless Mahrez decides to work on his defending drastically and completely overhauls his playing style, he will not fit the wingback role. Also his trickery and cut-ins will be wasted by playing him deep in defence. So the only alternate is to play him in one of the two advanced midfield roles (CAM) donned by Alexis and Ozil.
Magical, eye-catching, vulnerable in defence, fan favourite one year, accused of being lazy or uninterested in the next – there are one too many similarities between the Algerian and Ozil. If Ozil doesn’t sign the new contract and decides to move on, Mahrez should be able to replace him, and on a cheaper salary. However, if Ozil decides to stay, it’s debatable whether he could relegate Ozil to bench and grab a first team role. The only other alternative would then be Alexis playing as a center forward with Ozil and Mahrez right behind him.
However, this risks playing two very similar attack-minded players behind the striker and two players who are not renowned for their defensive work rate. With Ramsey consistently bombarding forward, this may leave a dent in the defence unless one of Ozil or Mahrez improve drastically in defending.
It depends on Mahrez’s ambitions as well. Will Mahrez want to move to a club without Champions league football? The consensus is that Mahrez is not a hot property after last season and not many top clubs are queuing up for him. So a move to Arsenal under a manager who thrives playing nimble-footed, attack-minded players would make more sense for Mahrez. And Arsenal fans will be in for a treat if the trio of Mahrez, Ozil and Sanchez line up in attack. However, Xhaka and Ramsey may have to work their socks off, covering the defensive holes.