It may come to some as a form of embarrassment, or even a sign of how low Arsenal’s stock appears to have fallen in recent years, but failure to capture Riyad Mahrez would not be a catastrophic blow.
It would not be the same as missing out on Alexandre Lacazette. It would not be the same as missing out on Shkodran Mustafi. It would not, even, be the same as missing out on his club teammate Jamie Vardy.
The difference between Mahrez and the three aforementioned players? Not talent, but the position of which he is utilised should not be at the top of Arsene Wenger’s list of areas to strengthen during preseason.
Per Mertesacker’s injury should force Arsenal into the market for a centre-half, while the future of Lyon forward Lacazette remains firmly in the balance.
Where Mahrez is concerned, he would be arriving at a club where Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex Iwobi, Joel Campbell and Theo Walcott are all currently competing for a place as part of the three behind the lone striker.
Sanchez thrived playing from the right in the closing weeks of last season and Mahrez’s arrival could disrupt the rhythm the Chilean began to find playing on the side adjacent to his stronger foot.
As well as the aforementioned attackers, midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere are also often used in more advanced roles, while Danny Welbeck – if fit – has been used out wide. Mahrez may provide another option on the right, but if Wenger is to make just one more signing this summer it categorically should not be the Algerian.
Arsenal’s total of 65 league goals last season is the club’s lowest goalscoring tally since the 2006/07 campaign – where the team predictably finished 4th – where Robin van Persie led the charts with a mere 11 strikes.
As such, the main priority should be to acquire a 20-goal striker, not yet another attacking midfield player. Lacazette certainly fits the bill, scoring a combined 48 goals in Ligue 1 in each of his past two seasons with Lyon. Boasting great pace and the ability to get in behind defences, he also provides the alternative to Olivier Giroud.
Ultimately, he should be the man the club look to break the bank for this summer – if they finally choose to do so.
Petr Cech kept 16 clean sheets last term en route to winning the golden gloves, and although the defence too requires improvement, Mertesacker’s injury could provide the opportunity for Calum Chambers to have an extended run in the first team. Chambers has threatened but failed to become a regular since moving to the Emirates Stadium two years ago.
The combination of Laurent Koscielny’s extended rest period following his exertions at Euro 2016 and Gabriel’s tonsillitis mean this preseason will be huge for Chambers in convincing his manager he already has a ready-made replacement for the BFG at his disposal.
The old proverb says if you’re not improving, you’re only getting worse but in the case of Mahrez, a legitimate argument could be made that there really isn’t a vast improvement which comes off the back of his signing. Yes he was last season’s PFA Player of the Year and yes he is a Premier League winner, but still joins a squad where there is already depth in his position.
It’s not a signing that one would be against seeing; that said, it still remains a signing which should be far from the final piece of business completed this summer.
Mahrez is a nice player, but not an essential one. He would doubtlessly be welcomed to the club with welcome arms, but by no means should Wenger or the board believe that will keep the fan base content.
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