Pep got his 100 million pound man, but it wasn’t necessarily the one he wanted.
The idea last summer was to replace the great Sergio Agüero with Tottenham’s star man, who is a proven goalscorer in the Premier League. It was perhaps too ambitious to even open negotiations with Daniel Levy for the England captain in the first place.
Guardiola eventually signed off on Villa’s club legend, as he was confident that a number of City’s attackers and midfielders could embrace a false 9 role in place of a traditional number 9.
After only scoring two goals and assisting two in the Premier League this season, many have been quick to claim that Grealish is having a poor season and is a massive flop, but we have to look deeper into the stats.
The reality of football is that not everything comes down to goals and assists.
One aspect of Grealish’s game that makes him so unique, is his ability to progress the ball up the pitch. His passing is consistent and he dribbles with the ball extremely intelligently.
Looking Deeper into the Stats
In the last 365 days, Jack Grealish is in the 99th percentile among all other attacking midfielders and wingers in pass completion and progressive carries.
He is in the 98th percentile in shot-creating actions in the last 365 days, and in the 2021-22 Premier League season he has 5.38 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes, which is the most on Manchester City.
Yes, it’s higher than Kevin De Bruyne, who sits at 5.23 shot-creating actions per game.
Having a player that does the offensive dirty work like Grealish is so vital, and it is perhaps one of the many reasons why City’s attackers are performing so well.
This season, his pass completion percentage is the highest it’s ever been, at 86.8 percent, which is the second-highest among Manchester City’s attacking midfielders and wingers, and only behind Bernardo Silva.
Looking into those passing stats, his long passing has improved nearly 17% from last season, as he has completed an impressive 30/39 long balls.
Grealish is also incredibly tricky in dangerous areas, drawing nine fouls that have led to a shot attempt, which is the highest on Manchester City. This can come in handy when City is struggling to generate offensive actions due to his ability to win penalties.
The most critical statistics of all, however, are Grealish’s 221 progressive carries and nearly 3,600 yards in progressive distance. These unbelievable marks are second on City, only behind Bernardo Silva again, who is having a phenomenal season himself.
When you toggle per 90 stats; however, Grealish has the highest progressive carries per full ninety minutes at an impressive 14.6 and progressive distance in yards of 238.3, both leading numbers at Manchester City this season.
City Are More Complete with Grealish
He is so secure with the ball, and City doesn’t need him to score goals.
The Englishman displayed all of these qualities in his brilliant performance against Manchester United, where he gave United problems all over the pitch, especially when the ball was at his feet.
He was key in the link-up of the first goal with Bernardo Silva and looked so comfortable dropping back and forth from midfield to left-wing.
He even made a couple of key defensive contributions, proving that he is hungry and wants to prove his value.
It’s hard to neglect Raheem Sterling given the season he is having, but having Grealish in the team just provides a massive level of security in possession.
Not that his end-product has been anything special, but Grealish has been unlucky with his goal and assist tally, as his expected goals and assist are double what they actually are.
People perhaps expected end-product out of Grealish because he was the backup option to signing Harry Kane, but it really is not the way we should evaluate his game.
How Super Jack Fits In
It just isn’t his job at City anymore, and I believe he will continue to thrive in a midfield or left-wing role under Pep Guardiola.
The truth is, Manchester City’s entire squad rotates on the pitch so fluidly under Guardiola, so Grealish is absolutely perfect for this system.
Having Grealish and Bernardo Silva in the midfield to progress the ball up the pitch with Rodri sitting in behind is an absolute dream, and when De Bruyne, Foden, and Mahrez get involved, it just becomes pure magic.
These six are who Pep Guardiola needs to play throughout the rest of the Premier League and Champions League campaigns.
I thought Phil Foden was excellent in a more central role against United and would love to see him keep that position.
I believe Manchester City are stronger with Jack Grealish, and I know he will thrive at City for years to come.
He is slowly adapting to Guardiola’s complex system, and he has proven that he is a great footballer that just needs a bit of time.