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Mahrez can be City's flexible friend

TARGET MAN: Riyad Mahrez is all smiles after scoring his first goal for City in our 5-0 win at Cardiff last month

TARGET MAN: Riyad Mahrez is all smiles after scoring his first goal for City in our 5-0 win at Cardiff last month

History suggests that Riyad Mahrez could well emerge as a key figure in Manchester City’s quest for success this season.

Manager Pep Guardiola was a long-time admirer of the wonderfully talented Algerian attacking star before finally securing his capture in the summer from Leicester City.

As he demonstrated time and again during his illustrious spell at the King Power Stadium, not least in the Foxes’ stunning title-winning campaign of 2015/16, Mahrez's big match pedigree and game-changing qualities are second to none.

And though it's only three months since his arrival at the Etihad, there have already been several encouraging glimpses of just how the Algerian can further add to City’s attacking riches this season and beyond.

A two-goal cameo in the pouring rain at Cardiff after Mahrez had come on as a second-half substitute hinted at his prowess in front of goal and ability to shape a game.

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The 27-year-old then followed that up by finding the target once again in our 3-0 Carabao Cup victory away at Oxford.

And frustrated though he undoubtedly was following last weekend’s late miss from the penalty spot away at Liverpool, it's worth emphasizing that Riyad produced a fine all-round display on Merseyside and twice went close to putting the Blues ahead prior to that late drama.

The fact that the Algerian is the only Premier League player to have reached double figures for goals and assists in two of the last three seasons prior to his move to the Etiahd speaks further volumes as to his all-round quality.

And Guardiola, for one, is in no doubt as to how important to the cause Mahrez will ultimately prove to be.

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“Riyad’s a guy who’s going to help us a lot," Pep said in the aftermath of our win at Cardiff.

"He is a special talent and in front of the goal he has incredible quality.

“We are so satisfied with him.

“He deserves to play more minutes, but the season is too long and they have to be ready, prepared, because they are going to play a lot of minutes.”

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Aside from his natural skill, vision and eye for goal, allied to his prodigious ability to beat defenders in one-on-one situations, arguably the other key weapon in Mahrez’s artillery is his ability to play in a variety of positions, depending on the team’s needs.

In many ways Mahrez could well become City’s very own flexible friend such is his ability to operate effectively across numerous areas of the field.

The 27-year-old possesses elements of David Silva's guile, Kevin De Bruyne's passing expertise, Leroy Sane's dribbling prowess and Raheem Sterling's ability to time clever runs in behind.

And in one of his first interviews after signing his five-year contract with the Club, Riyad was keen to stress that he was happy to play anywhere to fit in with Pep’s plans.

“I’m an offensive-minded player,” he told the press. “(In the role of) attacking, right or left midfield.

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“I have no problem with positions. I will play wherever the manager wants me to.”

However, Riyad’s creativity and vision means he could equally shine by fitting in as an orthodox number 10 for the Blues should the need arise.

And over the course of an energy-sapping campaign – not least a demanding spell of seven games shoe-horned in between our return to Premier League action at home to Burnley on October 20 and the Etihad derby on November 11 – that versatility could prove vital.

And the player himself immediately quashed any suggestions he would dwell on what happened at Anfield.

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“It won’t affect me at all - I have to look forward. Everyone misses penalties, even big, big players,” Riyad added.

“It’s part of football – sometimes you score, sometimes you miss.

“But the most important part was that our performance was very good. We deserved to win, but sometimes it’s important not to lose, as well.

“We were very strong and we showed that we can do both – we can have the ball but be strong as well. It was a good draw and I think we deserved to win.” 

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