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Manchester City: Jack Grealish’s £100m move just isn’t working

MARTIN SAMUEL: Jack Grealish’s £100m move isn’t working. His way of playing is contrary to City at their best but there is no way they are going to adapt for him… he HAS to come to them

  • Jack Grealish’s £100million move to Manchester City just isn’t working
  • There is no way City are going to adapt to Grealish and his style of play
  • Grealish slows the game down, he takes players on and cuts inside to create
  • We can see that Grealish’s natural style is not always what Guardiola desires 
  • Mahrez and Sterling both fit City’s system – Grealish has to come to them 

There is a reason West Ham want £150million for Declan Rice. Jack Grealish was £100m.

And if Manchester City will pay that for a player who increasingly doesn’t feature in their biggest matches, it is not so outlandish to believe they might pay more for one it is expected would get in.

Now, Rice won’t fetch that asking price because he doesn’t score enough goals as primarily a defensive midfielder. But Grealish, by his own admission, hasn’t scored enough this season, either. He has five in all competitions for his club, the same as Rice. And he is not getting picked for the most important games.

Jack Grealish's £100million move to <a href=Manchester City just isn’t working and it needs to change” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

Jack Grealish’s £100million move to Manchester City just isn’t working and it needs to change

So that £100m looks like one of the most inflationary transfers in recent football history. It has set an incredibly high going rate for young talent in this country. 

It genuinely would have been less damaging had City paid more for Harry Kane. Yes, perhaps even £150m. For Kane would have played, most weeks. He certainly would have started against the Madrid clubs, or Liverpool in the league. Grealish no longer does.

Pep Guardiola tried. It was certainly not a frivolous signing because Grealish started in all of Manchester City’s biggest games at the beginning of the season: at Tottenham on the first day, against Arsenal, away at Chelsea, against Paris Saint-Germain and then Liverpool on October 3. 

After that, Grealish doesn’t start against Manchester United in November, and later against PSG and Arsenal. 

We can see that Grealish’s (left) natural style is not always what Pep Guardiola (right) desires

We can see that Grealish’s (left) natural style is not always what Pep Guardiola (right) desires

It is a slow drift to the periphery from there. In the latter stages of the season he is on the bench, home and away against Atletico Madrid, for the huge league fixture with Liverpool and in the absolute classic against Real Madrid on Tuesday night. 

Will he start in the Bernabeu next week? If City arrive with the same gameplan — and having scored four why wouldn’t they — it is unlikely.

City’s furious pace was what rocked Madrid early. Had Guardiola’s players taken their chances the tie could have been as good as over by half-time. The most exhilarating passages of play saw passes exchanged at lightning speed between Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, even Gabriel Jesus. 

That is not what Grealish brings to the party. He slows the game down, he takes players on. It is possible to see him cutting inside and taking several opponents out of the game as Mahrez did for the first goal, but would his cross have been quite so perfect? Mahrez has nine assists this season, Grealish three. 

Grealish (left) was left on the bench for City's Champions League semi-final first leg with Real

Grealish (left) was left on the bench for City’s Champions League semi-final first leg with Real

Yet the difference in game time between the two is only 213 minutes. Mahrez scores every 112.9 minutes and creates every 288.5; Grealish scores every 476.8 minutes and creates every 794.6. That is almost nine games between each assist. Plus, Mahrez has 23 goals.

Statistics can mislead but not by this much. There is also the eyeball test. We can see that Grealish’s natural style is not always what Guardiola desires. Away, against Atletico, a player who could slow play and take time out of the game or who draws fouls, might have been perfect. 

And Grealish certainly got under Atletico’s skin, perhaps more than any other City player, despite only playing 22 minutes as a substitute in the first leg. Yet Guardiola did not risk him, even for a second. Maybe he was considered too volatile on a night when discipline was essential.

His way of playing is contrary to City at their best – there's no way they'll adapt for him

His way of playing is contrary to City at their best – there’s no way they’ll adapt for him

Either way, given the investment, it is not working out as planned. There is sympathy for Grealish, obviously. It is not easy to fit straight in at Manchester City

The style is unique, the coach precise and demanding. Mahrez was considered a work in progress in his first season. Raheem Sterling doesn’t always make the cut, either.

Yet neither have a way of playing that seems contrary to City at their best. There is no way City are going to adapt to Grealish. He has to come to them. Certainly, if he wishes to have more than just the best seat for all the good matches.

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