Summer signing Riyad Mahrez’s early goal on Monday night was enough to earn Manchester City a 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium. The strike marked the Algerian’s fifth for his new club and his combination with Raheem Sterling showed that he is becoming increasingly acclimatised to his new team.
Despite progress being evident, there is still a way for the 27-year-old to go before he’ll seem fully integrated into the City squad. Mahrez’s brilliance is obvious but aspects of his game are yet to align themselves with the Pep Guardiola model.
Too often, Mahrez still looks as though he thinks he is playing with a Leicester City shirt on. As the star man for the Foxes, he had license to be individualistic and attempt the spectacular with regularity.
However, at the Etihad Stadium, he is surrounded by teammates with a talent level equal, and in some cases greater, than his own. He must grow to trust them and shed his selfishness to an extent.
Guardiola’s style relies on players being alert to the positions and movements of those around them. His tactical approach is all about the manoeuvring of players and the ball quickly and into space so that both can arrive at the right place at the right time.
In the manager’s eyes, an easy goal is the best goal – a well-worked tap in being his ideal method of approach play (his tiki-taka system, developed at Barcelona, was the ultimate version of this). In order for this to be achieved, players in his team must always be aware of where their teammates are and where they’re heading too.
Currently, Mahrez is playing with his head down too often, attempting to do it all himself. Increased trust and awareness is needed, and it will likely come with time and patience being invested in him. Once he has adapted that element of his game, Mahrez will be the complete City player.