Jack Grealish came off the bench in Manchester City’s crucial Winners League semi-final match against Real Madrid, and has been a bit-part player for the majority of his tenure with the Premier League champions.
Manchester City’s Jack Grealish is one of the players under scrutiny following the team’s dramatic Champions League loss to Real Madrid on Wednesday night.
Pep Guardiola’s side were eliminated from the tournament following a 6-5 aggregate triumphant for the La Liga champions thanks to two late Rodrygo goals and a Karim Benzema penalty in extra time.
Grealish came off the bench to replace Gabriel Jesus with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
He had two excellent chances to end the tie before Madrid pulled level, but one of his attempts was cleared off the line and the other was pushed past the post by Thibaut Courtois.
Those missed opportunities came back to haunt the 26-year-old, with commentator Rio Ferdinand claiming that a goal would have “changed everything” for him.
Grealish has found life at City much more difficult than many expected this season after becoming the most expensive player in Premier League history (and the sixth most expensive player in all time) when he joined Guardiola’s side from Aston Villa for £100 million last summer.
Wither seven goals and nine assists under his belt, there was an expectation that he’d fit right in with the City assault.
However, he has only scored three goals and provided three assists in less than half of the champions’ Premier League games this season.
Furthermore, the England international hasn’t started a European match since the group stages.
Guardiola’s choice to sideline him in Wednesday’s crucial match reflected his present status in the team.
Grealish talked about his troubles early in the season, saying that adjusting to his new circumstances has been “tough.”
“Getting used to new management and coworkers has been much more difficult than I imagined.
I expected to have more touches on the ball, more assists, and more goals, but that hasn’t happened.
I haven’t got nearly as much time on the ball as I had at Villa.”
According to Fbref, Grealish averaged 58.6 Premier League touches per 90 for Villa last season, and 56.4 for City thus far this season.
In terms of being the target of attempted passes, his figure of 57.3 per 90 at City is similar to his average of 56.1 per 90 at Villa.
On that logic, it might be claimed that he is seeing the same amount of the ball as when he was in claret and blue.
The larger issue, and maybe the root of his city’s difficulties, is the locales and situations in which he is obtaining these passes.
According to Wyscout, Aston Villa had a possession average of only 46.1 percent under Dean Smith last season.
When they gained the ball back, their style of play was frequently about being compact without it and then breaking fast and directly.
Grealish benefited from this because he was frequently given the ball in advanced positions, allowing him to charge at an unsettled defense and dribble past defenders into open space.
The city, on the other hand, is the polar opposite of this.
They have a strong hold on the ball (67.8% possession this season) and frequently try to pin opponents inside their own half.
They smash down defenses with continuous passing and deft movement that creates spaces that they exploit.
This means Grealish is frequently picking up the ball in congested locations where he can’t dribble as effectively.
Last season, he averaged 3.83 dibbles per 90, with a 65.6 percent success rate.
This season, the average has dropped to 2.81, with a success percentage of only 57.4%.
Grealish may well find his feet, and given how much the City paid to bring him in, they will undoubtedly be patient with him.
Guardiola’s tactical style, on the other hand, will not alter, and therefore, Grealish will have to find a way to adapt or risk becoming a bit-part player.