Why Aston Villa’s Chief Creator Jack Grealish is in Demand

Jack Grealish

Before the start of this Premier League season, there was an argument to suggest that the hype over Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was all a bit over the top. While he showed glimpses of his undoubted talent, consistency and a threatening end product in the Championship was lacking.

Why Jack Grealish is in Demand

Top Performances

Villa fans remained convinced about Grealish’s ability to make things happen as their key player but the challenge was convincing the wider public that he is the real deal. If he didn’t dominate the Championship with his displays, how would he fare in the Premier League against some of the world’s best?

Five months into Villa’s return to the top flight and Grealish’s performances have shown that he is not only proving himself as a talented creator in the best league, but he is actually getting better and more consistent. Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Leicester was the latest example.

After a difficult start, Grealish grew into the game and it was no surprise that his first surging run at the Leicester defence resulted in the opening goal for Villa. From then on, the 24-year-old grew in confidence, showing excellent composure on the ball and skilful trickery in his dribbling game before switching to a deeper role to help Villa’s ball retention in the second half. Leicester managed to peg their opponents back but Grealish’s stamp on the game was already complete.

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Dean Smith’s Comments

“Jack showed his composure on the ball,” said Villa boss Dean Smith at full-time. “I thought it was a great, mature performance again. He carries the ball so well. He has got great balance and I probably felt that was what we lacked for the first 25 minutes today. Until he got on the ball I thought we were a little bit rushed and gave them the ball, with the exception of Jack. After the goal, other players started to have that belief. That is what Jack brings to us at the moment. He is a top player and he is doing well.”

As has been seen this season, this performance from Grealish was not a one-off. He has matched his ability with consistency and end product, especially when it comes to the creative side. Only three players (Kevin De Bruyne, Emiliano Buendia and Trent Alexander-Arnold) have created more chances than Grealish’s 52 this season. His form in front of goal has improved too, with eight goals in all competitions already the best return of his career so far.

When it comes to England, something particularly pertinent with the European Championships taking place in the summer, Grealish is also standing out and making a claim to be a part of the squad. No English player has created more chances from open play than the Villa man (46), with the next best being Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling on 33.

Grealish’s importance to Villa can’t be underestimated, either. Of the club’s 166 chances created this season, Grealish is responsible for 31.3%. To put that in comparison, that is a bigger influence than the Premier League’s chief creator, De Bruyne, who has created 30% of Manchester City’s 246 chances in the league. Grealish is Villa’s go-to man when it comes to attacking inspiration.

The influence of Grealish does not stop at the number of chances created. He is also skilful on the ball, averaging 3.1 dribbles per game, and is known to be keen on using the ball as an opportunity to go forward frequently. The 24-year-old is also the most fouled player in the Premier League this season, being brought down on 88 occasions, 20 more than the next highest, Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace.

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Changing Roles

After a difficult start to the season for Villa, in which they picked up just one win from their first seven league games, Grealish’s role as a central attacking midfielder changed. With £22.2 million summer signing Wesley becoming isolated, manager Dean Smith moved Grealish to a wide-left role, despite the player’s dislike for that position, in order to have a better link-up with the striker.

The tactical change has allowed Villa to become tighter as a midfield unit and given Jack Grealish the license to focus his energy on attack. What followed were three wins in four games across all competitions, including a 5-1 thrashing of Norwich at Carrow Road, a 2-1 win over Brighton at home and a 2-1 triumph over Wolves in that Carabao Cup. Since then, results have been inconsistent but Grealish’s level of performance has not waned.

Grealish is not short of admirers and rumours about a move away from Villa Park have increased with every impressive performance. Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham have all shown interest but the midfielder is likely to come at a hefty price.

“He is an incredible player,” said City boss Pep Guardiola after his side’s 3-0 win over Villa in October. “I am happy for the fact that he is an Aston Villa player. The fact that he had offers to move on but he decided to stay in the Championship. I like the fact that they were promoted to the Premier League and he defended his club. He is fast in the final third. Vision. Passes. He always creates something. He is an exceptional player but too expensive for Manchester City.”

There may have been many doubters before this season but now there are few now. Jack Grealish is turning into one of the Premier League’s most influential creators and it can’t be soon before Villa’s desire to keep him is well and truly tested.

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