Riyad Mahrez used to be one of Leicester City’s most prized possessions but that’s not the case anymore.
It’s not too often that a player can be singled out for criticism at a time when his team hasn’t done too well, but the fact that Mahrez still emerges as a top contender for probably the Foxes’s worst player this season, speaks a lot about his on-field horrors.
In what is beginning to look like a repeat of his previous season, Riyad Mahrez’s only meaningful contribution this season has been a couple of assists, both coming against Brighton and Hove Albion as Leicester City beat them 2-0. It’s not a mere coincidence that the East Midlands outfit’s only win came when their star man was at his best, it’s an occurrence that we’ve seen way too many times. With Mahrez doing what he’s supposed to, Leicester simply are a different side.
On the contrary, though, no matter how world-class you are, when you keep on prowling around on a football pitch for the better part of 90 minutes, you’re a waste of time and space, which is what Riyad Mahrez is increasingly becoming. The 26-year old’s performance against Liverpool probably sums up his past year: Pedestrian, uninventive, lazy and non-existent without the ball.
No one is asking him to do the dirty work, to tackle or be too defensively involved – he can’t do that. What’s important when your team is having a chastening time on the pitch, though, is that you at least track back and assume a little bit of defensive responsibilities so your team is not found wanting. Mahrez, however, hasn’t appeared to be interested in doing that, which is surprising for someone who’s a winger.
Some people may still cite Mesut Ozil as an example of a player who doesn’t do too much, but what they don’t see is his work-rate in the final-third and the quality thereof. Besides, Ozil isn’t a winger, he’s an attacking midfielder, who, even if he doesn’t do his part at the back, makes up for it just as he gets the ball. With Riyad Mahrez, that’s not the case either, as he isn’t really doing anything – up front or in his own half.
If a player’s most significant contribution in recent memory has been fuelling transfer speculation, there is a problem. Riyad Mahrez still has the demeanour of a man who wants to leave the King Power Stadium, and till the time he doesn’t gain his hunger back, it would only be ideal to drop him to the bench.
Craig Shakespeare can easily pick Demarai Gray instead. The prodigious young forward may be a wantaway himself, but at least he wants to prove a point every single time he comes on the pitch. It doesn’t matter if he misplaces a few passes, takes unnecessary shots or gives the ball away – it’s all part and parcel of the game for someone in his nascent stages. At least the 21-year old offers a sense of security, a sense of satisfaction to the fans and the manager that there are 11 men on the field, all of them hungry and interested.
Shakespeare did recently hint at making changes to his XI, but now is the right time to let his actions do the talking and set the right example.