Pep Guardiola has challenged Riyad Mahrez to rediscover the form he was showing for Manchester City last season, despite suggestions he is already enjoying his best spell for the club.
Mahrez is in the midst of a fine run of form for Man City. Either side of his Africa Cup of Nations involvement with Algeria, he has scored in seven consecutive matches at club level. From those games, he has provided a total of eight goals (half of his season total) and four assists.
It has been an impressive spell, which he will be hoping to continue when Man City take on Norwich on Saturday.
But as he looks to extend the run, his manager has actually disagreed with a claim he is in his best ever City spell. Instead, Guardiola wants to see him replicate how he finished last season.
Guardiola answered at a press conference: “No, last season was the best moment I found Riyad. He can do better this season to find the level last four five six months last season.
“It was outstanding the way he played and produced. He can do that.”
But explaining why Mahrez has been playing so well, Guardiola said: “The quality of the finishing, the personality of the penalties. When he’s close in the box his ability, his technique because he’s not so strong so he needs the speed. He has this quality.”
In contrast, one attacking player who has not been as successful this season is Jack Grealish. The record signing will come up against his former Aston Villa manager Dean Smith on Saturday.
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Smith has spoken of how Grealish always wants to improve, and Guardiola agreed with his assessment before topping up his advice.
The former Barcelona boss said: “Absolutely. No-one knows Jack better than Dean. I completely agree with him.
“He plays good when he was playing, he helps us to be in the position we are in in all competitions, he plays in a high level, he changes his life from Birmingham to come here – he needs time.
“He plays really well, either wider or centrally. We are really good about the play. Not Jack, the players together from day one, we push them. It’s the best way to wake up, train, and think to do something better.”
Guardiola previews Norwich clash
Providing some team news for the trip to Carrow Road, Guardiola confirmed the absences of Gabriel Jesus and Cole Palmer.
He said: “These two players are still out. Gabriel is coming back soon. Hopefully.”
The last time Guardiola’s side visited Norwich, in September 2019, they suffered a surprise defeat. And although they are league leaders by a comfortable distance at this stage, they are expecting another challenge.
Indeed, Norwich have won four games from six in all competitions since the turn of the year. They are currently on a three-game unbeaten run in the league.
Guardiola assessed the opponents as such: “Long time ago, when we play against them it’s different to two seasons ago. It’s a new manager, new game.
“We lost two seasons ago there. Of course Norwich have momentum. It’s excellent, seven points from last nine. We play them at their best moment of the season.”