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Riyad Mahrez: Why Arsenal need the Leicester dazzler more than Lemar, Draxler

COMMENT: Don't do it Gooners. Don't cry 'same old, same old'. Not this season. At least, not until this transfer window slams shut.

Those away fans at the Brit have every right to feel aggrieved. Frustrated. Absolutely they do. Even the most ardent of Arsene Wenger supporters had to be baffled by his team selection at Stoke City. Hector Bellerin at left wing-back. Per Mertesacker, Mo Elneny and Francis Coquelin all on the bench? It was Stoke. Bloody Stoke. The toughest away game in the league - and Wenger leaves all that muscle in the dugout? What's he doin'?

But don't analyse the result. Look at the game. This isn't letting the manager off the hook, but he's right when he says they had enough chances to put this result away.

Alexandre Lacazette should've had his second goal in a week. That was never offside. But what a finish! The Frenchman looks Premier League ready. When was the last time Wenger had such a natural goalscorer to call on? If those three chances had fallen to Lacazette and not Danny Welbeck, you fancy Arsenal would've walked away with the three points.

But, again, those fans at the final whistle have a point. Why hook Lacazette with a good 15 minutes to run when you're chasing a goal? The most clinical finisher in the team and he's hauled off? It made no sense.

But Gooners should be steadfast. This next fortnight will be hectic. Ins. Outs. It'll all be happening at London Colney these next two weeks.

If there's a positive to be drawn from Saturday's setback, it was a nice dose of reality for the manager. It's been a good summer for Wenger. In Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac he's brought in two players who've hit the ground running. He's seen his team lift the Community Shield, contributing to Chelsea's crisis along the way. And last Friday, with the world watching, his Arsenal edged a seven goal thriller against Leicester City to kickoff the Premier League season.

But, if complacency was settling in, the trip to Stoke was the reality check Wenger needed. This team, as it stands, isn't good enough. It still needs reshaping. And it must be argued, that reshaping has to involve Premier League ready players.

Adding Thomas Lemar from Ligue 1 champions Monaco sounds exciting. Taking on World Cup winner Julian Draxler from PSG the stuff of fantasy football. But when it comes to the English game, they're an unknown quantity. Indeed, after Draxler's difficult six months in Paris, is the Germany international even capable of playing outside the Bundesliga?

But when it comes to Wenger's search for a new attacking midfielder, the third option being mentioned ticks all the important boxes. Riyad Mahrez is proven. Battle-hardened. And absolutely flying. That Arsenal are still considering alternatives borders on the scandalous.

Mahrez has long had a transfer request in at Leicester. At £40m, he's available for less than current market value. Certainly much less than what Monaco are demanding for Lemar. And, as stated, he's flying.

This is a pro's pro. There's no sulking from Mahrez. No downing of tools. No poorly bellies. No silly social media posts about being 'sick'. He wants to leave Leicester. And for a bigger stage. But he'll still give his all. Two assists yesterday for victory over Brighton. Impressive the previous Friday against Wenger's lot. This is the mentality that improves a locker room. Certainly a locker room like Arsenal's.

On the pitch, Mahrez would enhance Wenger's back three formation. He can play wide. He can play behind the striker. Even alongside him. And he won't go missing. You won't hear Leicester fans accuse the Algerian as Gooners were turning on Mesut Ozil at the Brit.

And he's flying. We keep mentioning Mahrez's form because that should also be a factor for Wenger. They need an instant hit. Lacazette and Kolasinac have worked out. But that's after two months with their new teammates. Mahrez, on current form, should do the same. Something you couldn't say about Lemar or Draxler.

Going into the Foxes' clash, Wenger basically made our argument. He said of Mahrez: "I rate him as a player but we have similar types with Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil and now Jack Wilshere back.

"We have plenty of the same type of player."

No, you don't Arsene. You don't have a fighter like Mahrez. A title winner like Mahrez. Nor a player in the form of Mahrez.

Kolasinac has improved Arsenal. As has Lacazette. Signing Mahrez would do the same - both on the pitch and more importantly, inside the dressing room.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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