By 90Min
January 19, 2018

Riyad Mahrez has been in scintillating form since Claude Puel took over as Leicester City manager in October. The 2016 PFA Player of the Year had a poor season by his standards last term, only scoring six goals and registering three assists in the Premier League. 

Compare that to this year's statistics of seven goals and seven assists already, and you can see how the Algerian is arguably back to his best. Six of them goals and four assists have come under the stewardship of current Foxes boss Claude Puel, so what has the Frenchman done to get the best out of Mahrez? 

Firstly, a slight change of system may have benefited the attacker. In Puel's time in charge of Leicester, he has mostly played a 4-2-3-1 system, with Mahrez in the middle or right of the attacking three, in behind Vardy. This system gives the Algerian the free role to basically go where he wants on the pitch, either pitching up on the wing or in the middle. 

Because of this, Mahrez gets hold of the ball more, and is able to create like everyone knows he can. The system also allows for flexibility in players' positions, meaning that he is able to interchange with the player on the wing and have an affect in the wide areas of the pitch.

Puel has mentioned how he can speak in French to the 26-year-old, and although over his time at Leicester Mahrez seems to have become fluent in English, this may have had a positive impact on the Algerian. Even though he has been in England since 2014, hearing instructions in his native language will take away the possibility of misunderstanding, and make both Mahrez and Puel confident in communicating with each other.

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In one of his first few games in charge of the club, Puel took Mahrez aside at the end of the game and have a chat to him individually as he was going off the pitch. Puel has opened up communication channels with the Algerian and has built a good relationship with him through being able to speak with each other in the language that they are both the most comfortable with.

In Leicester's last game, their FA Cup replay against Fleetwood Town, the manager gave his star man the captain's armband. This may seem like a small gesture, but it was a shrewd one by the Leicester boss. With speculation rife over the winger's future, a simple act like this shows Mahrez how important he is to the Foxes. 

When asked about this, Puel told a Sky Sports reporter"We have an obligation to keep the captain. It is not possible he can leave."

And, quoted by Sky Sports last week, when asked if Mahrez was worth £100m, he replied: "Perhaps; maybe in the summer he will cost even more than £100m."

This is a clever tactic by Puel to make Mahrez feel valued, which seems to be drawing a positive response from the player. He looks a lot happier compared to the start of the season, and this is also showing on the pitch. 

It is still to be seen if Mahrez will still be a Leicester City player by the end of January or by the start of next season. But he looks a completely different player from the one who was being marked out of games this time last year. He also looks like a different player to the man who wanted to move away from the club during the summer.

Puel has a reputation for bringing the best out of the players that he works with, and he seems to have worked his magic with Mahrez through slight tactical tweaks and clever man management. And if Leicester do manage to keep hold of their star asset during this window, then the fans can look forward to many more 'Mahrezmarising' performances from the attacker under the Frenchman. 

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