Ghana's No. 1

Riyad Mahrez sends perfect response to Pep Guardiola criticism with Man City reminder

Published on: 06 October 2022

As pre-match messages of encouragement go, having your manager question your fitness questioned was hardly ideal for Riyad Mahrez. So it was slightly surprising to see him start in Manchester City's Champions League win over Copenhagen, or maybe that indicated that he's firmly second choice on the wing at present.

Either way, it was a chance for Mahrez to prove Pep Guardiola is wrong not to be playing him more, and the manager often takes these 'easier' games seriously, looking favourably on players who do the same.

"He knows [what he needs to do]," said Guardiola on Tuesday. "I know Riyad perfectly. We need him, he has to come back to his best and at his best Riyad in terms of personality, quality, ability, his love for this game how he enjoys to play. Step by step, he's going to come back.

"He has to come back in a better physical condition and after the best will come because as a player I cannot teach him anything because he is too good."

It was a criticism sandwiched in between two votes of confidence, but Mahrez isn't the first to lose his place for a drop in form and won't be the last under Guardiola. The beauty of Guardiola's squad is that players will always get a chance to play their way back into form, even if it's not in the big games.

So Mahrez started on the right against Copenhagen, where Phil Foden has displaced him in the league with a string of brilliant performances and a growing partnership with Kevin De Bruyne.

From the start, Mahrez looked like he had a point to prove, but was typically being marked closely to limit what he could do. He did the basics right, though, and kept City moving against a deep defence as he has done so often.

He was visibly frustrated when Erling Haaland took a cross off his toes and took a shot himself, and wasn't afraid to shoot if the chance presented itself.

In the second half, with Haaland replaced and Cole Palmer moving into the number ten role, Mahrez got some more space and it was telling that Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo both insisted he took City's penalty.

Mahrez confidently dispatched it to show he can still be relied upon to keep his cool from the spot, and will generally be happy with his performance, even if he wasn't particularly at the heart of the action.

That quality that Guardiola spoke about was on show when Mahrez deftly touched the ball past his defender in the area after Jack Grealish's lovely run, and the cross for Julian Alvarez was perfect.

If this is the first step Guardiola refers to, though, it was a good one for Mahrez to start earning his place back. And City will need all of their players ready to perform with their busy schedule in the next six weeks.


This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.
Learn more