Men's Team

Mahrez enjoying best City spell, says James

David James believes Riyad Mahrez is currently playing the best football of his Manchester City career.

The silky winger scored the winner in our 1-0 league success at Chelsea on Thursday night – finishing an electric move which saw Jack Grealish slide the ball across the box for the Algerian ace to tap home.

His effort at Stamford Bridge added to what’s already been an amazing few weeks for the 31-year-old.

In our first match back from the World Cup break, he netted a sensational goal in our 3-2 League Cup victory over Liverpool.

With the match poised at 1-1, he plucked the ball out the sky and coolly slotted home with his left foot from inside the box.

The incredible effort not only helped us progress to the quarter-finals of the competition, but it earned him the Nissan Goal of the Month award for December.

While his performances since the return to domestic action have also awarded him the Etihad Player of the Month gong.

Speaking as pundits on Matchday Live’s broadcast for the trip to the capital, both James and Shaun Goater sung Mahrez’s and Pep Guardiola’s praises.

“I thought they [the Grealish and Mahrez substitutions] were the interesting [ones]", expressed James.

"We didn’t anticipate the changes at half-time, the set-up change was made with Rodri going into midfield.

“But Grealish coming on, because Foden was capable of doing what Grealish was doing, so in a sense we were all surprised by that.

“But when you make a substitution and one passes to the other and scores and, funnily enough, it’s his [Mahrez] second goal of the season which surprised Shaun before the show!

“It’s his second goal of the season but I think it’s actually his best spell [at the club]. He’s looking lively, he’s looking up for it and he’s looking happy.”

Goater added: “This is where Pep knows the players better than we all do and Grealish has come on and plays the vital ball.

De Bruyne has given it to him, he’s then put it across the face of goal and Mahrez has come in on the end of it and I’m just thinking ‘beautiful'.”     

With Chelsea arguably edging a goalless first half, Guardiola turned to his bench to change the tide, and replaced Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker with Manuel Akanji and Rico Lewis.

And James explained how the introduction of the City academy graduate allowed Mahrez to flourish further up the field.

“What was interesting with the half-time subs as well is he’s taken off two right-sided players and effectively put in a left and right sided player,” said James.

“It wasn’t just like-for-like in position, and that allowed Mahrez to go further forward and I think that was the problem with Cancelo because he wasn’t far enough forward and he was stuck in the middle.

“It’s the best win in football, 1-0, because it’s always tight.”