During Tim Sherwood’s spell as Aston Villa manager they entertained midland rivals Leicester City and took a deserved 2 goal lead. The Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri made a tactical adjustment to try and get back into the match. Nathan Dyer and a certain N’golo Kante came on while Riyad Mahrez was moved infield to play behind Jamie Vardy.
What proceeded to happen was the Algerian putting on a masterclass of dribbling and running with the ball; the kind that seems to be going out of fashion. As I wrote on Supersport.com the day after the match I felt Mahrez needed to come with a health warning. In that 2nd half a drop of the shoulder, a swaying of the hips or simply just dragging the ball with that cultured left foot had defenders sprawled on the turf in his wake as he elegantly continued on his way. Lovely sight to behold.
Leicester of course went on to win the league that season and Mahrez shared the individual honours with his team mate Vardy. He did also win the BBC African Player of the Year award. Last season was forgettable for Leicester but he did show flashes of the beautifully balanced footballer we know he is.
It is almost accepted by everyone connected with Leicester City that Mahrez will leave in this Transfer Window – Roma the confirmed suitors. I am shocked that Spurs and Pochettino are not in for the Algerian. He will be perfect for Spurs. He is the type of player they need. The type they currently do not have. Spurs are really the PL equivalent of Atletico Madrid. By this I mean they are a team who are so finely drilled and the players know exactly what is required of them whenever they get onto the pitch. In Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen they have players of fine talents in their own rights but both of them do not possess the qualities that Mahrez will bring.
When teams defend deep or block the central corridors to goal Spurs lack that player at the top end of the pitch who is twinkle toed enough to dance around the first two challenges which normally creates spaces and breaks lines. The North London side do try to find Eriksen and Alli in those pickets behind the midfield but just in front of the defence. However, as Chelsea showed, when you block those corridors they look laboured and struggle to carve out chances.
Managers like Pochettino can be hostages to their systems but one of the beauties of football is that dribbling is still an essential part. With Erik Lamela still unavailable Mahrez will be a fantastic addition to Spurs. All the great sides have always managed to have 1 or 2 dribblers in them. Lionel Messi and Andres Inistea ruled the roost during Barcelona’s pomp. At Real Madrid currently, Luka Modric and Isco break the lines easily with their dribbles.
This is a pivotal season for both Spurs and their manager. The move to Wembley or the reconstruction of White Hart Lane needed to happen but none of these will matter or count as a valid excuse if they end the season without any silverware. Apart from signing an experienced premier league campaigner, signing Mahrez will change the mood in the dressing room as they will have a Premier League winner. It will be a good move for all concerned.