Pep Guardiola has Riyad Mahrez conundrum to crack for Man City return

As if Manchester City’s striking situation wasn’t strange enough, a look at the goalscoring charts adds another layer to what is shaping up to be a very unconventional season.

Ilkay Gundogan top-scored for Pep Guardiola’s side last year, the midfielder’s sense for arriving at the right time in the box proving especially priceless as the fitness of Sergio Aguero and form of Gabriel Jesus failed.

The obvious plan to correct that in the summer was to sign a centre-forward to take on the burden of spearheading the charge for trophies, yet all of the effort that went into Harry Kane was wasted when the Tottenham captain ultimately accepted he would not be allowed to leave North London.

City have reacted well to that, and their top scorer in all competitions has a very respectable eight goals; to put that into context, that may be well short of Mo Salah but is only one less than Cristiano Ronaldo — and comfortably more than any Chelsea player.

It may come as a surprise to some though to know that it is Riyad Mahrez with his eight goals, three ahead of his nearest City teammate.

Mahrez was lined up as a key player at the beginning of the campaign given he was one of the few to have a full pre-season, with hopes that he would continue his form from the back end of last season when he stepped up as one of the principal matchwinners.

Yet after starting the 1-0 defeat to Tottenham on the opening weekend the Algerian has been displaced on the right wing by Gabriel Jesus, thriving in a new position.

That is how it has felt anyway, although while Jesus has been preferred more often, he has not been as productive. Nobody has, in fact. Jesus is averaging a goal or assist every 92 minutes, Phil Foden is second best with 85 minutes but Mahrez is out on his own again with 76 minutes.

Why, then, is City’s most prolific player this season having to work so hard to get a game? He has started just one of ten league games since the Tottenham match.

Some of that may be explained by the timing of his goals. Where last season Mahrez was scoring heavy goals against the likes of Everton, Southampton, Paris Saint-Germain (twice), so far in this campaign his only tie-breaking contributions have come in the home matches with Wycombe and Club Brugge.

Essentially, it hasn’t felt like Mahrez has won his team a game this season despite being easily the most prolific member of the squad.

That is the latest weird quirk to keep Guardiola thinking during the international break: Mahrez is well down the list of the most important players this season yet has been the most reliable finisher in a group lacking that clinical touch.

If a way can be found for the Algerian to maintain his goal returns while increasing his other contributions to the team, City will have even more reason to be positive.

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