There were a lot of transfer rumours this summer, most of them were probably nonsense, but one rumour has been confirmed by the player himself.
That is the link to Riyad Mahrez. Arsenal had been rumoured to be interested in Mahrez this summer, with sources in France even indicating that a deal was all but done towards the end of the window. Despite all of these rumours, the Algerian winger decided to stay put, but that may be down to Arsenal not paying the asking price.
“There was contact with Arsenal,” Mahrez told Canal Football Club. “But Leicester wanted to keep me and I was pretty expensive. I did not want to create a conflict when the offer came in.
If the press were to be believed, then Claudio Ranieri was demanding around £50million to accept a bid for the midfielder who was named PFA Player of the Year last season. Ranieri did well to convince Mahrez and another Arsenal target, Jamie Vardy, to stay at the club following an incredible season.
“Personally, I think it is a good thing I stayed put” he added.
“It’s now up to me to prove myself again.”
Mahrez, like the entire Leicester City team, hasn’t started the season in the same manner as he finished the last. The Algerian’s form so far this season would certainly raise question marks over his £50million valuation and unless he can get back close to the level of last season, many will label him a one season wonder.
Let’s remind ourselves of last season quickly, when Mahrez shocked the footballing world with a stunning season. Here’s how he compared to Arsenal’s midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. Mahrez scored a huge 0.50 goals per 90 minutes, that’s 5 times more frequently than Oxlade (0.10) and almost twice as good as Theo (0.33). Mahrez was also very creative, with 0.33 assists per 90, Oxlade didn’t register any assists in the league last season and Walcott’s rate was a lot lower (0.13). A key part of a wingers game is beating his man, whilst this is one of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s strengths (3.47 per 90), Mahrez is still ahead with 3.88, Walcott struggled with this last season and is last with a miserable 1.68. In fact Mahrez beat Theo and Alex in pretty much every area I analysed.
I’m sure lots of people will react to this news by saying ‘why didnt Arsene pay up’ But if Mahrez doesn’t re-capture his form, then it may good news. There’s no way Leicester will demand such a large amount if Riyad struggles this season, so if Arsenal and Arsene are still interested, then he will cost them a lot less. Also in not paying up for Mahrez, Wenger put his faith in Theo and so far that has worked out very well. Many, including myself, thought Theo was finished, but he has come back a new man this season and already looks 10 times the player he was last season and even in pre-season.
Despite all of this, something tells me this won’t be the last time I’ll be commenting on Mahrez to Arsenal links.