Pep Guardiola ended speculation over his future as Manchester City last week by putting pen to paper on a contract extension to keep him at the Etihad Stadium until 2023. With this issue settled, City can now start to plot a way forward, with Guardiola expected to guide the club through a rebuild over the next two years.
A recent report in the Independent suggests City will target Jack Grealish next summer, with Guardiola said to be a fan of the 25-year-old. MEN Sport understands that City were not interested in the Aston Villa man in the summer, but Guardiola is an admirer of his. Grealish has again been a standout performer for Villa this season and so it’s unsurprising that he is being linked with one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs.
Grealish has registered four goals and five assists in eight Premier League appearances so far this season. While the 25-year-old enjoyed an impressive 2019/20 season with Villa back in the top flight, he has raised his potency in front of goal this season, maintaining an Expected Goals per 90 minutes value of 0.30 this season compared to his xG per 90 minutes value of 0.18 last season (as per FBRef).
He is averaging 0.5 goals and 0.62 assists per 90 minutes this season compared to 0.22 goals and 0.17 assists per 90 minutes last season. Grealish is averaging more shots on goal this season (2.87 compared to two last season), with more of them on target (0.87 compared to 0.61 last season). A higher percentage of his shots have been on target - 0.57 compared to 0.36 last season.
Guardiola might want Grealish to bring some spark to a Manchester City attack that has grown a little stagnant this season. Kevin De Bruyne has also been glowing in his praise of the Aston Villa man.
Determining how Grealish would fit into Guardiola’s side largely depends on how the Manchester City manager views the 25-year-old. In City’s 4-3-3 system, it’s possible Grealish could play on the left side of the midfield unit. This is the position filled by Bernardo Silva for the most part this season, with De Bruyne and Rodri frequently forming the rest of the trio alongside the Portugal international. Grealish could potentially usurp Silva in the City line-up.
Silva has averaged just 0.2 key passes per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season (as per WhoScored), while Grealish has averaged 2.6 key passes per 90 minutes. The Portuguese has also averaged just 0.5 shots per 90 minutes in the league this season. He has underwhelmed.
The other option would be to use Grealish on the left wing, as Gareth Southgate has for England and as Dean Smith has done at Villa, and move Raheem Sterling into a more central role. Having arrived at Manchester City as a winger, Sterling is already more of an inside winger now and so this would be the next step in his transition into this position.
Guardiola is right to have identified Grealish as someone who can give City something they are currently lacking. For all the possession his side had against Tottenham Hotspur last Saturday, it never felt like City were on the brink of scoring. They were too predictable. No matter whether it’s in midfield or on the wing, Grealish would certainly help in this regard.