Before the season started, I was told to watch out for Riyad Mahrez as he was set to light the division on fire in 2015/16. After hearing that Claudio Ranieri was taking over at the KP Stadium, I thought Leicester were set for relegation and I didn’t think that any individual players at the club could make an impression. After the opening four rounds of fixtures, it’s clear that Leicester have continued their form from last season. In addition to impressive team performances, Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton have given some of the best individual performances to date.
The Algerian is 24 and while he has always had potential, he hasn’t really been able to be consistent in his game. It is still early in the season, but it looks like the midfielder is going to add that this year and if he does, he could emerge as one of the most in-demand players in the league. He is primarily a right winger, but he can also play on the left or through the centre. This versatility is a huge part of his game as it has made him comfortable in any area of the final third, which allows him to move across the front line during a match. This makes him very difficult to mark and to predict.
His style of play is dynamic and he is very intelligent in the final third, which prevents him from wasting possession when Leicester have it. This is crucial as Ranieri’s men aren’t going to dominate many teams in the division and they must be clinical when chances come their way. Mahrez is a complete player in the final third as he can dribble, cross and is a great finisher. His movement has looked excellent at times this season, and it isn’t surprising to see him at the top of the goal scoring charts. The winger can also threaten from distance. He has all the attributes to keep this form going and have a great season.
He already has four goals to his name this season, which is the same number that he scored over the entirety of last season. It’s clear that he has done lots of work over the summer and that he is determined to become the star of the Leicester team. His relationship with Marc Albrighton, Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki allows Leicester to play a fluid attacking style with all four switching positions during attacks.
Mahrez gets 60% of his shots on target, which is an impressive ratio for a winger and highlights his confidence in front of goal. He is also creating a chance every 36.5 minutes, which is incredible and if he keeps this form up, he could easily emerge as a target for bigger clubs. It’s unfair to judge the Leicester player on just four matches, but he is beginning to make a name for himself and it will begin to get harder for him as a result. Teams will start to set up plans to stop him and then it will become clearer whether he can continue to improve, or if Leicester is his limit.
The Algerian recently extended his contract to 2019, which will make it harder for clubs who become interested in Mahrez. It is sad that if a player at a club like Leicester has a spell of good form that they are immediately linked with a move away, but that is modern football. Before the deadline, he was linked with a move to Arsenal, while Liverpool and Tottenham do like to target players from other Premier League clubs. The next few months will be crucial for Mahrez as he tries to show he is better than just a flash in the pan and that he is here to stay.