Connect with us

Leicester City

How do Leicester City solve a problem like Riyad Mahrez?

January interest from Manchester City has turned the head of Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez. Now it is down to the Foxes hierarchy to dictate the Algerian’s short term future, writes Rob Meech.

Rob Meech

Published

on

Photo: Reuters

As bargains go, few can beat Leicester City‘s capture of Riyad Mahrez.

Signed from French outfit Le Havre for the nominal fee of £320,000 in January 2014, the Algerian has exceeded all expectations to become one of the world’s best footballers.

Mahrez played a starring role in arguably the biggest shock in British sporting history, as the Foxes defied odds of 5,000-1 to lift the Premier League trophy in 2016.

The 26-year-old dazzled spectators with his mazy runs and goals, scoring 17 times in total.

Cutting in from the right wing and curling the ball past the goalkeeper’s outstretched right glove was his trademark.

The nucleus of that title-winning side has since disbanded, with Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante having both swapped the King Power Stadium for Chelsea‘s Stamford Bridge.

Mahrez had pledged his future to the Foxes in the months following their sensational triumph, putting pen-to-paper on a bumper four-year-contract.

However, speculation linking the 2016 PFA Player of the Year with a transfer grew and after a disappointing campaign both personally and collectively, he announced his wish to leave the Midlands outfit, saying he felt it was the time to ‘move on.

A number of clubs were linked with him, but a move failed to materialise.

After initially being omitted from the starting line-up in the early stages of this season, the appointment of Claude Puel revitalised Mahrez, who reminded everyone why he had been so highly coveted.

Since then, his relationship with Leicester has turned sour.

He submitted a written transfer request in January and tried to force through a move to Manchester City, whose £60 million offer was rejected by the Foxes.

Sanctioning his departure on deadline day would have given Leicester very little time to sign a replacement.

Moreover, any potential deal would have been greatly inflated, with clubs wise to Leicester’s sudden windfall. Mahrez though, has effectively gone on strike.

He has not appeared at training this week and skipped the club’s past two fixtures.

Mahrez believes he has been denied his dream move.

He has given the club another 18 months of his career after they won the Premier League and in that time has seen the club sell the likes of Drinkwater and Kante.

Now, he feels the club should repay his loyalty. Instead, he feels betrayed.

It leaves Leicester in a predicament.

Even if Mahrez reported for training, it is likely he would incur a heavy fine and/or suspension.

It is hard to believe his team-mates feel anything other than let down by their star player.

By refusing to work at the club that pays his handsome wages, he is also damaging his reputation among the fans, who worshipped him as a hero.

One course of action for Leicester is to banish Mahrez to the reserves, much like Southampton did with Virgil van Dijk.

In reality, the hierarchy will understand it makes no sense in the long-term.

Selling their prized asset for an amount that meets their valuation, at a time that enables them to identify a replacement, would be best for both parties.

On top of the financial aspect is the effect this saga is having on the squad.

In an environment as highly charged as the Premier League, unwanted distractions can have major impacts.

Ultimately, there are rules that must be obeyed and respected.

No player can be allowed to breach his contract and go AWOL just because he doesn’t get what he wants.

Mahrez is tied to Leicester until 2020, a contract he was more than happy to sign.

He is in a privileged position and his childish behaviour only enhances the disconnect between footballers and the man on the street.

Reopening dialogue with the club and apologising for his actions would be a first step towards reconciliation.

Mahrez’s future may lie away from the King Power Stadium, but there are ways and means of going about it. Remaining professional is top of the list.

The supporters deserve better from a man who achieved more than he could possibly have dreamt of at Leicester City.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

Leicester City

Tottenham would be the perfect move for Leicester star Demarai Gray

Published

on

Photo: Getty Images

Having failed in their bid to bring Demarai Gray to Wembley for the 2017/18 season, Tottenham could be reigniting the interest in the hope of signing the young winger ahead of their move to New White Hart Lane.

Reports originating from ESPN say that Spurs are looking to sign the England under 21 captain after Leicester City refused to do business for the former Birmingham man in the past.

Gray’s form has not been as convincing as some may have hoped for this season, with just four goals and three assists from 39 appearances in all competitions, but that has not put Daniel Levy and company off.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Demarai Gray has found his game time limited of late, despite only missing three Premier League games to date this season. Since the turn of the year, the winger has made only four starts for the Foxes and may relish an opportunity to be trusted more regularly, particularly at a club like Tottenham.

Working under Mauricio Pochettino would undoubtedly be a huge draw given his reputation for developing young players. That is believed to be key to his interest in Gray, who could follow in the footsteps of the likes of Eric Dier and Dele Alli in joining the club and going on to become regulars in the Premier League and for England.

Leicester will not be keen to part ways with one of their most exciting young talents and will command a huge price, which may put Levy off, but there are few English players in his age range with such potential and if anyone could justify such a fee, it may well be Gray.

Continue Reading

English Premier League

17 goals in 32 games: Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy better now than title-winning season

The Englishman’s fine form has gone somewhat under the radar this season.

Jake Jackman

Published

on

Photo: Getty Images

Jamie Vardy was a late developer, but he has emerged as one of the best strikers in the Premier League since Leicester City were promoted to the division.

His best season came when the Foxes sprung a surprise to win the league title during the 2015/16 campaign.

It would have been easy for the striker to trail off after that incredible year, but he has continued to work hard and is going into this summer’s World Cup as England’s form striker.

Considering Leicester are finishing the season with a stutter, the performances and consistency of Vardy have gone under the radar, but he deserves a lot of credit for his excellent goal-scoring campaign.

In 32 Premier League matches, he has scored 17 goals at a rate of one every 165.2 minutes. It is impressive for any striker to score as regularly as that and the 31-year-old will feel that he is at the peak of his powers.

Leicester have lost three of their last four matches and that has meant that the focus hasn’t been on the team. However, Vardy continues to deliver the goods in the final third, having scored in each of the Foxes’ last five matches.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

The England international currently has the record for scoring in the most consecutive Premier League matches scored. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he has managed to hit another hot streak.

It can even be argued that Vardy has improved since Leicester’s league-winning season, especially when it comes to the mental side of the game.

He has become a more intelligent player and that is evident through his positioning and anticipation in the final third.

The 31-year-old gets a lot of chances from being in the right place in the right time, whereas during the 2015-16 campaign, the majority of his goals were carbon copies of each other. There would be a long ball over the top and his pace would give him the chance. Now, he is a much more complete player.

In addition to improving the mental side of his game, Vardy has become a more clinical finisher as shown by his sharp increase in chance conversion.

During the incredible title-winning season, the striker had a chance conversion rate of 20.9%. This campaign, it stands at a very respectable 28.8%. This is due to the striker gaining more experience and knowing how to take the chances that come his way.

Michael Owen once said that the Leicester City man wasn’t a natural finisher. That is no longer the case.

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

The stats also show a style-shift in Vardy, as he averages only 0.39 ball recoveries per ninety minutes, as opposed to the impressive 1.47 that he managed during the excellent season of two years ago.

This suggests that the striker realises that his body can no longer go as it once could and he is decreasing his overall workload due to this. As a result, he can focus on taking up dangerous positions and scoring goals.

Although Vardy is not likely to surpass his 2015/16 total of 24 goals, it can be argued that this season is just as impressive. He is playing in a mid-table side and has shown an improvement in his finishing, which was already at a high level during the title-winning campaign.

The Foxes front-man knows that he won’t get as many chances to score as he did back then, but he is making sure that he makes the most of them.

England will favour Harry Kane this summer in Russia, but the Leicester City forward will have a big role to play for the Three Lions. His form this season shouldn’t be ignored.

Continue Reading

Bournemouth

Leicester City 1-1 Bournemouth: Three talking points from the King Power

Rob Meech

Published

on

Leicester City
Photo: Getty Images

Riyad Mahrez’s stunning 97th-minute free-kick rescued a point for Leicester City against Bournemouth.

Mahrez, who had been heavily linked with a move to Manchester City in the January transfer window, curled the ball past Asmir Begovic from 30 yards to deny the Cherries victory in a grandstand finish at the King Power Stadium.

Joshua King had given Bournemouth a first-half lead when he stepped up to dispatch a spot-kick after being fouled inside the area.

The Foxes threw everything at their opponents in the second period but had to wait until deep into added-time for a dramatic equaliser.

Here are three talking points…

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Redemption for Mahrez after troubling period

The Algerian’s attempts to engineer a switch to City and subsequent failure to report to training had not been well received by Leicester supporters.

Mahrez had been a key figure in the Foxes’ phenomenal Premier League title triumph two years ago, but his reputation suffered a battering when he made it clear he saw his future away from the club.

After a difficult period for all involved, Mahrez is back in the fold and now back in the fans’ good books.

His last-minute goal against the Cherries certainly was evidence of his redemption.

Thirty yards out, the 27-year-old started the ball outside the wall and watched it bend back past Begovic’s outstretched right hand.

Leicester, who have never beaten Bournemouth in the top-flight, are winless in five Premier League matches, but they remain eighth in the table.

With Mahrez’s reintegration seemingly complete, a fruitful finish to the season could even help them push for a European place.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Howe ‘disgusted’ as Bournemouth concede so late

Bournemouth’s backs had been firmly up against the wall in the second half as they sought to hold on to their tenuous advantage.

It looked to have been a worthwhile effort until Mahrez’s moment of magic.

A share of the spoils was probably fair in the context of the game, but Cherries manager Eddie Howe admitted he felt ‘disgusted’ after watching the visitors concede so late.

Only four minutes of stoppage-time had been scheduled, but an injury to Simon Francis as well as a substitution meant referee Lee Probert played nearly double that amount.

Despite missing out on what would have been a crucial win, Bournemouth are edging towards safety.

They have lost only once since Christmas, a run that has helped them climb out of the relegation zone and amass 33 points.

Two more victories from their remaining nine fixtures should be enough to secure Premier League football for a fourth successive campaign.

(Photo by Roland Harrison/Getty Images)

Summer will be a key time for both clubs

In a league that is dominated by the so-called ‘Big Six’, the primary aim of the other 14 clubs is survival.

As mentioned above, both Leicester and Bournemouth are all but guaranteed to be playing in the top-flight next season.

The question for both in the summer will be, how can they push on?

The first job for the Foxes’ hierarchy and manager Claude Puel will be deciding the future of Mahrez.

Do they cash in on their star player and reinvest the funds into the squad, or do they try to tie him down to a new contract?

Bournemouth’s ambitions are perhaps not as high as Leicester’s, but after finishing ninth last season, another mid-table position will consolidate their status as a bona fide Premier League outfit.

On the field, there may be some significant outgoings as Howe looks to freshen his resources.

The out-of-favour Harry Arter is one player who looks likely to leave the south coast.

Off the field, the club will hope its plans for a new stadium get closer to becoming a reality.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2017 The Boot Room.