Despite the disappointing result in Southampton on Saturday, the performance of Jack Grealish was certainly a bright spark which showed us his undoubted potential in a blue shirt.
Whilst many rivals fans are already calling him a flop, there is certainly a great future ahead for Grealish at Manchester City.
When comparing his current stats to last year it would be easy to argue that he has dropped off in performance this campaign. Albeit, in 10 less premier league appearances, he has scored 4 less goals in the premier league and registered 8 less assists. These stats can create a misleading picture as to how his first few months at the blues have gone.
Grealish has had to learn that now he plays for Manchester City he will often be faced with the situation of attacking against 11 men behind the ball. At Aston Villa he often would have had far more space to run into and attack defenders. Not only this but at Villa the team relied on him to be the focal point of their attack, now Grealish must share the ball more widely with his team mates. Adapting his style to play in this new situation is difficult and often leads to less outright goals. This however does not mean that he isn’t impacting games like he used to, instead we must change the way we appreciate his skill.
One of the key analytical tools often forgotten is the eye test. Football isn’t always about numbers and in a team filled with the top players in football, people can be too keen to use goal and assist stats to define a players performance. Naturally, misses like the golden chance against Chelsea don’t help, but Grealish’s movement to create space for his teammates, along with his ability to involve other players in attacks can not be understated. Against Southampton Grealish could be seen using his skill on the ball to beat defenders and create attacking opportunities. The movement that he has implemented off the ball into his game has fitted into a system where more space needs to be found due to the lack of a striker. Grealish also averages 5.3 shot creating actions a game which highlights that he can often create good chances for the team.
Guardiola was also impressed with his performance against Southampton. He in particular noted his ability to find space and manipulate defences. Guardiola said ‘‘he’s so aggressive, he makes incredible runs, he dropped the Southampton team to the byline’
It is also hard to ignore the similarities between the start of his city career and his fellow winger Mahrez’s. After joining from Leicester, Mahrez didn’t seem the same player that city signed. Pep’s style of play is very complex and demanding on the players and so it is only natural that it can take a while to get up to speed with the rest of the side. This season, it would be hard to find someone who disagrees with the fact that Mahrez is one of the top players in the league. Grealish will soon become that in the eyes of many once he has had enough time to adapt to the tough Pep system.
There should be no doubt in City fans minds that Grealish is not performing as poorly as some people make out and that he is learning all the skills needed to succeed at the home of the Premier League champions.