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Is Haaland’s Manchester City success overshadowing Mahrez failure?

18:53 WAT 28/10/2022
Riyad Mahrez Erling Haaland Manchester City 2022-23
The wide attacker’s penalty miss at Borussia Dortmund continued what has been an underwhelming start that has hitherto gone under the radar

It is safe to assume Manchester City had a rare malfunction in Tuesday’s Champions League outing at Borussia Dortmund.

Erling Haaland firing blanks is not something observers are used to, with the Norway star shattering scoring records in his start to life at the Etihad Stadium and is on pace to outdo Mohamed Salah’s 32-goal return in a 38-game season.

At his previous stomping ground, though, the in-form City striker could not be decisive against old friends, shooting at goal only once in 45 minutes.

Haaland did not resurface for the second half at Signal Iduna Park owing to a foot injury and a fever he was suffering from before the game.

That was the greater malfunction on a night Pep Guardiola’s crew sealed progress as group winners, but so was Riyad Mahrez’s penalty miss, albeit not on the same scale as Haaland’s failure to score.

Admittedly, the Algeria international failed to tuck away a penalty in the preceding match-day at Copenhagen when he was thwarted by Kamil Grabara as it ended goalless in Denmark.

It represented the wide attacker’s third miss since the backend of last season where a miss in the 86th minute against West Ham United denied Pep’s team a 3-2 win en route to their eventual Premier League title success.

Observers have faulted Mahrez’s composure and execution from 12 yards in recent days, not considering that he netted 10 penalties on the trot after a gutting late miss at Liverpool in the 2018-19 campaign.

Nevertheless, Guardiola revealed that Mahrez will be taken off spot-kicks for the time being, whilst expressing concern about the team’s penalty record since he took charge of the club in 2016.

“Of course, it’s a problem, since I was here we miss 25 penalties,” the decorated Spaniard remarked after the Dortmund stalemate. “It’s not good enough. Always I admire the courage to take responsibility to do it but it’s a problem, we miss a lot of penalties.

“Riyad was exceptional two or three years ago, he shot the penalty to go 1-1 here (against Dortmund in 2021) to help us reach the semi-final for the first time,” Guardiola added.

“Lately, he missed. He will reflect. He can take a break now with the penalties.”

Mahrez’s recent malaise from 12 yards is only part of a broader unease at the winger’s performances at the Etihad Stadium.

The 31-year-old has largely appeared out of sorts this term and unable to replicate top performances whenever he has been called upon.

Admittedly, Pep’s rotation and tendency to fall in and out of love with his forwards could be a mitigating factor, but Mahrez’s consistency in Europe in the last two campaigns has hitherto not been replicated this term.

Mahrez’s 15 goals plus assists in the last two campaigns have outdone every teammate but this year’s return from five appearances (four starts) sees him sit on two contributions — a goal and an assist — both coming in the Citizens’ 5-0 thrashing of Copenhagen at the Etihad.

While keen-eyed observers will be quick to point out that only Haaland (five) and Phil Foden (three) have contributed to more goals than the former Leicester City winger, his performances have underwhelmed and the drop-off in the underlying attacking metrics give credence to the feeling he has not started the campaign at his flying best.

The wideman has not fared any better domestically, and statistics show a dip in his shooting accuracy and chance creation per 90. While this comes from a small sample size of games, it is not the start Mahrez will have wanted especially having committed to the club for an extra two years with the extension signed in July.

In a sense, Haaland taking away the spotlight with his blistering start to life in England has meant Mahrez’s underperformance in 2022-23 has not been critically examined but the attacker will hope to find his feet before his dip comes under the microscope.

The Norwegian is undoubtedly City’s top marksman this term, but Pep will need the supporting band if they are to reach their goal of retaining the Premier League and reigning supreme on the continent.