Arsenal could be set to pull off a huge transfer if Spanish newspaper Sport are to be believed, as they claim that the Gunners have offered Riyad Mahrez a four year contract as the Leicester winger grows increasingly frustrated at the lack of movement from Barcelona.
That will spark rumours over whether the number 26 would line-up alongside Alexis Sanchez or replace him, given that the two wingers have similar attributes and skills. With one on either wing, Arsene Wenger’s side could regain some of the fear factor they have lost in recent years, but how do they compare?
Mahrez is often thought of as a more creative presence, with Sanchez being more of a finisher and it is an area where you can see how the Chilean stands out above his Algerian counterpart. Last season Mahrez managed 10 goals, but Alexis Sanchez managed 30 in just three more games across the course of the season.
That comes in part from the style of play, with Sanchez far more likely to be cutting inside and looking to have a crack at goal rather than setting up others. Sanchez averaged 3.4 shots per game, compared to Mahrez’s 2.4, in the Premier League last season, with half of them coming inside the penalty area compared to just 30% of Mahrez’s efforts.
However, the Leicester star failed to continue his 2015/16 form and managed a meager seven assists last season, again, compared to Sanchez’s 19. Whilst it is worth considering the higher level of quality in and around Alexis at the Emirates, he did manage 0.5 more key passes per game than his counterpart.
So how does Mahrez compete? Well, the 26-year-old boasts much more control in possession. Whilst Sanchez was dispossessed 3.5 times per game on average in 2016/17, Mahrez only lost the ball 1.9 times per match. That kind of ball retention is crucial to Arsene Wenger’s style and also reflects how Mahrez could indicate an improvement. Sanchez’s desire to run the ball into dead ends and do it all by himself at times last season cost his side possession, whereas Mahrez was more effective at turning possession into chances.
It remains to be seen if the Foxes star will complete a move to north London, but if he does then it could be a major statement from the club. Mahrez is one of the league’s most dangerous wingers, even if his form last season failed to replicate what he produced in Leicester’s historic title winning season.
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