Flak for Grealish is misguided he serves his purpose to the City team

Why the flak for Jack is MISGUIDED: Yes, the Manchester City star should score more… but Grealish ticks many other boxes for Pep Guardiola, who is happy with the £100m man

  • Jack Grealish has faced criticism for his perceived lack of goal involvements
  • Pep Guardiola said on Friday that he is not in the team primarily to score goals
  • Scored against Wolves on Saturday to quell some of the tide of critics  

Jack Grealish is not a Manchester City player for his goals. Not primarily, anyway. Pep Guardiola made that clear on Friday and not for the first time.

His role is to carry possession, taking defenders with him, when the game requires stretching. Or to recycle the ball when the game needs slowing.

Both of those elements are centred on control and creating space for others, often against opposition sitting in with 10 men behind the ball.

Manchester City’s Jack Grealish has admitted he needs to provide more goal contributions

By and large, Grealish has performed the tasks very well since that £100million British-record transfer last year.

They are not showy, it might not be the all-action, blockbuster extravaganza people expect from him, but has he ever really been that guy? Or was that reputation foisted upon him?

Even with the freedom of Birmingham, many of his mercurial moments for Aston Villa appeared in the middle third of the pitch and that has not changed with City. There were at least three occasions at Wolves when quick skill took him clear of defenders and over the halfway line. Then he would be scythed down, earning a free-kick.

Pep Guardiola remains pleased with his forward as he stressed he is carrying out his role for the team  

These passages are so common among City’s midfielders that they are barely worthy of note; Grealish does it better than most.

But a goal every so often does not hurt, and it was obvious what this scrappy finish, inside 55 seconds, meant to him.

‘My dad’s been telling me every single day, ‘Try and get in there Jack for those little tap-ins’. He will be buzzing that I got a little goal like that,’ Grealish said. ‘I’ve been trying to do it. It’s nice to go away with England after getting a goal and a result.’

He wants more, putting that pressure upon himself, which is possibly a product of listening to the radio or reading social media too often. On those platforms, the response to his display at Molineux — which came with more aggression in the final third than on a disappointing night against Borussia Dortmund — was overwhelmingly positive. Yet it was not dissimilar to the performance out in Seville recently, purposefully hitting the box regularly and knitting play.

He did not score in Seville, though, and so his performance hardly got a mention.

‘We work in a day and age where everyone talks just about goals and assists but there is a lot that goes on in football and we win a lot of games,’ Kevin De Bruyne said. ‘It (criticism) comes with being a very good player.’

De Bruyne also suggested Grealish’s nationality brings additional scrutiny. ‘It is not about football,’ he said. ‘I understand because they are English and people tend to look more into what is happening. Outside of football, the focus is more on them.

Kevin De Bruyne (C) said the criticism the England man is facing is also slightly about his nationality and the weight of expectation 

‘I feel like foreign players… for instance if you have a night out, we don’t really get checked that often. Whereas if an English player goes out… What he does in his private life, nobody should care but people do.’ De Bruyne’s feelings on Grealish are characteristically blunt and they carry weight — especially when referencing the need to stick to a game plan.

‘With all due respect, he was at Villa before and if you lose a game sometimes it is not the end of the world,’ he said. ‘But if we lose a game it is different. We have to perform every week. That is the difference and what he has had to adjust to.

‘As long as we win the games and he is doing a good job for us, that is all that matters. Obviously he needed some time to settle in but he is fine. Be patient, I am not too worried.’

The England man will seek to answer his critics with his club after the international break 

It will be fascinating to see how the trio of Grealish, Erling Haaland and Phil Foden flourish over the coming months. That combination worked out in Spain during the first Champions League group game and functioned at Wolves, too, with all three scoring.

Haaland now has 14 goals in nine appearances for City — 11 of those in the Premier League — and offers a completely different dimension. ‘We have the best striker in the world who is just obsessed with scoring goals and being in the box,’ said Grealish. ‘It changes all of our games compared to last season.’

The Haaland goal, City’s second of the afternoon, owed much to Grealish. He had to win a 50-50 challenge on the touchline to spring City into action and did so, nicking ahead to flick a ball inside. A few seconds later, Haaland was scoring right-footed from the edge of the box.

The red card shown to Nathan Collins was a product of Grealish waiting for the right moment to attack a bouncing ball to fly clear — only for Collins to fly boot-first straight into his midriff.

‘I went in for the tackle because if I do win the ball then I’m away and I think I would’ve been through,’ Grealish said.

City’s second goal was in large part thanks to Grealish’s work in midfield where he won a 50-50

‘It was sore. He caught me around my stomach. I spoke to him and he didn’t mean it, which is obviously fine.’

Grealish is at his best when kicked to bits, and when the home crowd’s venom towards him spits. The South Bank were relentless, jeering every touch — firstly for his past association with Villa, but secondly because Grealish is Grealish — and then less than complimentary when later substituted. Grealish amusingly applauded them.

‘They love me here, don’t they?’ he smiled in an empty stadium afterwards. ‘I’m surprised I’m not getting booed now!’

Wolves (4-5-1): Sa 6; Jonny 5, Collins 5, Kilman 5, Ait-Nouri 5.5 (Semedo 81); Neto 6 (Campbell 86), Nunes 6, Neves 6.5, Moutinho 6, Guedes 6 (Hwang 70, 6); Podence 6.5 (Traore 70, 6). Booked: Nunes, Neves. Sent off: Collins. Manager: Bruno Lage 6.

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Ederson 7; Stones 7.5, Akanji 7.5, Dias 6, Cancelo 8; Rodri 7 (Gomez 81), Silva 7.5 (Alvarez 71, 6); Foden 8.5 (Mahrez 72, 6), De Bruyne 8 (Gundogan 72, 6), Grealish 8 (Palmer 77); Haaland 8. Scorers: Grealish 1, Haaland 16, Foden 69. Booked: Rodri. Manager: Pep Guardiola 7.

Referee: Anthony Taylor 6. Attendance: 31,578.

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