Despite just winning the FA Cup against Chelsea a week before, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has wasted no time looking forward to next season, hinting his club may well be interested in signing Leicester’s pacey winger and Algerian international Riyad Mahrez.
Wenger’s provocative statements come just after Mahrez himself has made it clear he wants a move away from the King Power Stadium before the next season kicks in, revealing in a statement, “Out of the huge admiration and respect I hold for Leicester City I wanted to be totally honest and transparent with them and have therefore informed the club I feel now is the time for me to move on.
“I am fiercely ambitious and feel now is the time to move on to a new experience. I’ve always enjoyed a good relationship with the chairman and everyone at the club, and I hope I have been able to repay the faith shown to me by my performances and commitment on the pitch during my time here,” the 26-year-old footballer further explained.
In truth, Mahrez has failed to repeat last season the feats he has reached during the course of Leicester’s title-winning run a year earlier. Indeed, the Algerian wide man has only managed 10 goals and five assists across 48 matches during the 2016-17 campaign – which pales in comparison to the 17 goals and 11 assists he made in the previous year, which won him the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, alongside winning the Premier League title.
Such a dip in form has pushed away interest from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Monaco, both of whom were interested in signing him just a season earlier.
But it seems Wenger sees potential in Mahrez, saying in an interview, “Personally, I like the player, yes. I think he made a huge impact when they won the championship.
“Like everybody else at Leicester, this season has been more challenging, but it doesn’t take away from his qualities,” the French manager added.
But Wenger was quick to clarify that Arsenal are yet to formally enter the race to sign Mahrez. “Have we made a bid for him? No. Not yet. No, we have not.”
In all fairness, Arsenal can do with an injection of pace in the wings to partner with Alexis Sanchez. With both Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain not living up to expectations, Mahrez may well be the missing link Arsenal are looking for as the squad seeks to clinch a top four finish and qualify for the Champions League once again.
Arsenal, for their part, will definitely be able to dole out the cash needed to sign Mahrez – but the important question is will they be willing to part with such huge sums to bring the Foxes star to London? After all, despite Mahrez’s announcement, Leicester will unlikely let the player go for cheap, especially as he is rated to be worth at least £40-million.
Having missed out on Champions League, Arsenal must find the right balance in ensuring they improve their squad while at the same time not go on a panicky spending spree in the hopes that huge amounts of cash will bring them a top-four finish; Liverpool and Manchester United certainly learned that lesson the hard way.
In the end, it still remains to be seen whether Mahrez will end up being a Gunner come next season, and Wenger certainly hasn’t closed his doors, saying, “It could happen. It might not happen.”