Arsenal Transfer News: Gunners to Battle for Riyad Mahrez in Latest Rumours

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2018

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City during The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Replay match between Leicester City and Fleetwood Town at The King Power Stadium on January 16, 2018 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Arsenal are reportedly set to join the battle to sign Leicester City's wantaway winger Riyad Mahrez in the summer.

According to Paul Hetherington of the Daily Star Sunday, the Gunners will join Manchester City in the hunt for the Algeria international at the end of the season. In addition to those two sides, Manchester United and Chelsea are also said to be keeping an eye on developments.

As noted in the report, City were keen to sign Mahrez late in the January window, although a transfer failed to materialise. After deciding not to sell the winger, the 26-year-old has been missing from training.

Indeed, according to Hetherington, "Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has regularly made checks on the Leicester star by inquiring about his character and how he trains."

Speaking after Leicester's 1-1 draw with Swansea City on Saturday, Foxes boss Claude Puel said he was hopeful Mahrez would be reintegrated into the squad again soon.

"After some time, he will come back with us," he said, per Hetherington. "He is our friend and I think all the staff and all the players will help him to come back with a good mentality and a positive attitude and to enjoy his football with his team-mates."

Journalist Rupert Fryer could see why Mahrez has been left frustrated at not being able to move on and questioned why Leicester's valuation of him is so high:

With Mahrez out of the side in their last two Premier League matches the Foxes have struggled, losing at Everton and then getting a point against relegation-threatened Swansea.

Mahrez has been in excellent form this season.
Mahrez has been in excellent form this season.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It's a reminder of how crucial Mahrez has become to the team, having rediscovered some of his very best form again this term.

The Algerian was central to Leicester winning a surprise Premier League title in 2015-16, and although he wasn't quite at his best the previous season, in 2017-18 he's been the creative hub in this Foxes side again.

As these numbers from OptaJoe show, in the final third, Mahrez can be so effective:

While Arsenal have constructed a new attack recently with the signings of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, they'd benefit from a player of Mahrez's style.

After all, the Gunners have lost wide players in the form of Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as of late. Some penetration from the flanks would give them another dimension; Mahrez would bring it in spades.

Perhaps, based on his conduct as of late, the Leicester supporters would be willing to see the back of their No. 26, too, per James Sharpe of the Leicester Mercury:

Mahrez's flair, quick feet and searing pace would see him slot into any Premier League side. The manner in which Arsenal play would also help bring out the best in the winger.

Still, getting Mahrez through the door would be a challenge for the Gunners at this point, especially with City having already shown serious interest in the player. At the moment, the likes of City, United and Chelsea are in a better position to offer UEFA Champions League football and more consistent trophy challenges.