Straight from helping his country win the African Cup of Nations, Riyad Mahrez is back in business with Manchester City. The Algerian was the club’s record signing as at last season and moved to the Etihad Stadium with high expectations. Winning the treble with the Sky Blues last term was fair reward for his talent. The 28-year-old has been one of the best players in the Premier League in the last three seasons since pulling the strings to help Leicester City to an unexpected league title.
His contributions earned him the PFA Player of the Year award for 2016. He has not looked back ever since. Manager Pep Guardiola revealed in an interview recently that the winger called him after winning the Nations Cup to express his desire to return to the team soon in order to prepare for the new campaign.
Such is his hunger that only a medication issue stopped him from featuring in the Community Shield game against Liverpool. But the manager did not hesitate to thrust him into the thick of things in the opening league match of the season. He gave a good account of himself playing the whole 90 minutes.
On a day where there was no Leroy Sane to call upon and Bernardo Silva sat out as a result of a muscular issue, Mahrez shone brightly. The former Le Havre man proved too hot to handle as he ran the West Ham defence ragged. Two sumptuous assists for Raheem Sterling helped the Englishman bag a hat-trick.
City hit Manuel Pellegrini’s side for five. But perhaps there could have been more. The team showed exactly why it’s still the favorite to win the title. That's despite the toughening up of the competition.
With all of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal strengthening their squads this summer, the title race should be even tougher. The trio is intent on making a push for silverware this time around.
As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp's men are not European champions for nothing. The German tactician has one of the best squads in Europe and fancies his chances of ending the Reds' three-decades-long wait for a league title this term. Chelsea may have collapsed against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, but a look at the team’s performance during pre-season shows that may just be a blip. Frank Lampard is capable of pulling a surprise with the group of players at his disposal.
Hence, City must be ready to take things a notch higher. The players must demonstrate the readiness to give their all to accomplish the task at hand. That makes Mahrez’s show of commitment exemplary.
It’s not surprising then that he was instrumental to the opening day victory. With regular performances like that, he will be a key player for the team this season. Hopefully, that leads to adding more silverware to the trophy cabinet at the Etihad Stadium (especially the BIG one).