When any player becomes a record signing in the Premier League, or in any league for that matter, they automatically become a focus of attention. It’s understandable then that being the first English player to command a £100million transfer fee puts Jack Grealish firmly in the spotlight.
There is a huge weight of expectation on his shoulders to perform and even be outstanding in the team. Ideally, he should be the star man. The one carrying the team over the line when the going gets tough. He is expected to be outstanding and to deliver man-of-the-match performances week-in-week-out.
But Grealish’s output at Manchester City has not lived up to the expectations of many. That has attracted criticism from several quarters. The player himself has admitted he needs to do more; he needs to contribute more in terms of goals and assists.
He chipped in six goals and four assists in 38 appearances in all competitions last term. That was his first campaign at City and as has been previously seen with players like Riyad Mahrez and Rodri, the first season at the club could be a bit turbulent. Both players have since fully settled in and become key members of the squad.
For those expecting a reinvigorated Grealish in the new campaign, the 27-year-old has not started the season particularly well. His performances in the Champions League against Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund were not thrilling, to say the least.
He was yet to make any goal contribution to the team before the game against Wolves. But when asked about his performance, Pep Guardiola backed the player. The manager insisted that Grealish had done the best he could given the circumstances.
“When he goes against the full-back, only Erling was there. Gündo was not there, Kevin was not there and they should be. In the first half especially with the ball we didn’t make any movements to help the players who had the ball and give him more possibilities to make it easier,” said Guardiola.
“I’m more than happy and delighted with what he’s doing. Now it’s just a question of time to get back a little bit his momentum he had at the beginning of the season.”
When asked about the player’s poor statistics and lack of output in front of goal, Guardiola replied:
“We didn’t sign for the incredible goals or assists at Aston Villa. It was another reason and when he played he did it. I want [him] to make goals and assists and he does too. But it’s not about that, it’s about his contribution without the ball and what he can produce for the other ones.”
His manager’s backing must have given the player a boost in confidence as he made his presence felt in the very next game netting City’s first goal in the first minute of the game at the Molineux.
Knowing how important scoring or assisting can be for any player under pressure, this could just be the tonic the Englishman needs to take his performance to the next level. He certainly has his manager to thank for backing him so firmly in the face of all the criticism he has endured since the beginning of last season.
The club may have overpaid for the player. But that is not his fault. It was a combination of the circumstances and the state market at the time. City were determined to get him, yet Aston Villa remained resolute in their demand that their starman will only leave if his release clause was triggered.
Grealish can be grateful for his manager’s vote of confidence and use it as a launching pad for better performances for the Blues. That will be a welcome development for all concerned parties.