Lacklustre Leicester risk losing Algeria's Mahrez

Lacklustre Leicester risk losing Algeria's Mahrez
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Published November 7th, 2016 - 16:25 GMT via

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The Algerian was in superb form against West Brom, but his team-mates were not at the same level as the Foxes slipped to a first home league defeat in 14 months
The Algerian was in superb form against West Brom, but his team-mates were not at the same level as the Foxes slipped to a first home league defeat in 14 months

It was one of the transfer sagas that seemed to run on the longest throughout pre-season, but when Riyad Mahrez rejected overtures from Arsenal and Chelsea and committed himself to Leicester City with a new contract, the relief among Foxes fans was palpable.

He was – alongside N’Golo Kante – one of just two irreplaceables in Claudio Ranieri’s title-winning squad.

With Kante having already departed for Stamford Bridge, whether Leicester could again compete with the biggest and best the Premier League has to offer was largely down to if Mahrez stayed, and whether he had the mental focus to continue the upward trajectory his career has thus far taken.

In reality, the loss of Kante and drop in form of others has seen the Foxes’ defence end before it even began. They are succeeding in the Champions League, but they remain also-rans domestically rather than the force of nature they so often performed like last term.

Against West Brom their performance was again nothing short of average at best, save for the majestic Mahrez.

The Algeria international’s brilliant control of a football were on show for all to see at the King Power Stadium, with the winger routinely plucking diagonal balls out of the air before looking to beat Baggies left-back Allan Nyom on whichever side he so fancied.

His brilliant cross to pick out Islam Slimani for the home side’s equalising goal early in the second half was just one of a number of teasing balls into the box that otherwise went unrewarded.

It is becoming clearer by the game, however, that progress to the latter stages of the Champions League is all that stands between Mahrez and a likely departure through the exit door in the east Midlands.

Defeat to Tony Pulis’s side was Leicester’s first at home in the league since September last year, and it was no more than yet another lacklustre display deserved.

Too often they gave the ball away in crucial areas or ran down blind alleys while Wes Morgan and Robert Huth again lacked the composure at the heart of defence that they displayed so often in the final third last season.

Behind them Ron-Robert Zieler fails to instil the same confidence as Kasper Schmeichel – who is set for a month on the sidelines with a fractured hand – while Danny Drinkwater’s uncharacteristic error in playing in the impressive Matt Phillips for the West Brom winner only compounded matters.

It is unlikely the Foxes will be sucked into a relegation battle - they sit just two points above the bottom three after 11 matches - but Ranieri’s insistence on getting to 40 points as soon as possible seems far more pertinent this term than it did last.

A seemingly favourable run of fixtures that was meant to reignite their hopes of a second season of European football have begun in the worst possible way, and already a top-half finish is looking likely to be the best Leicester can hope for.

One supporter claimed at half-time that he had “seen 44 years of football like this before last season” and could cope with watching it again. It remains to be seen whether Mahrez feels the same way.

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