How Jack Grealish transformed his Manchester City career

Published on 20 June 2023 at 20:00

Nathan Hartley


The Jack Grealish we all know about was a fast and direct winger, taking on defenders with confidence. However, after leaving Aston Villa for Manchester City for £100 million, the England international did not set the world alight, leading to many people calling him a 'flop'. Lets see Grealish was able to turn his Manchester City career around and become a crucial starter for Pep Guardiola's incredible side.


The Struggle

Grealish left his boyhood club Aston Villa during the summer of 2021 for Manchester City for £100 million, making him the most expensive English footballer at the time.


Many expected big things from Grealish as soon as he came into the City side, especially after being bought for £100 million. However, the start of his career at Manchester did not go to plan.


For Grealish, signing for Manchester City meant that he had to adapt to Guardiola's system, which didn't allow the England forward have the freedom he had at Aston Villa.


Despite City winning the league, Grealish did not have much gametime - he only recorded 3 goals and 3 assists during the 2021/22 season, whilst other wingers at the club were providing a lot more.


What was the problem?

With Grealish not having a good season, many quickly came to the conclusion that he was a flop. The price tag of £100 million did not help Grealish's case with people's minds.


We all know what Grealish's best attributes are. He likes to take on defenders one-on-one and also cut inside from the left wing, being more involved in the play.


At Aston Villa, he was their main player with all the other players playing off of him as Grealish was always full of confidence to move the team forward. However, at City, he was nowhere near their main player as Guardiola's side has star players all across the pitch.


During his first season at City, Grealish was ordered by Guardiola to stay out wide. However, this did not suit his qualities as all he was doing was recycling the ball back and not creating any chances, as that was where players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan would excel.


The reasoning for Grealish's role of staying wide was because of Guardiola's idea of inverted fullbacks also creating a lot of chances. A lot of times when Grealish would play, he would have Joao Cancelo behind him at left back, meaning the Birmingham-born winger did not have cover, limiting what he could try and do with the ball to affect the game in a positive way.


What has changed this season?

With the addition of Erling Haaland for the 2022/23 season, City now had an out-and-out striker that could certainly guarantee them goals, In fact, Haaland provided 52 goals in 53 games in all competitions during the 2022/23 season for City.


Changes to how the full backs played massively helped Grealish. Full back duo Oleksandr Zinchenko and Joao Cancelo would both leave the club. Therefore, instead of replacing them, Guardiola would change the way he wanted the full backs to be involved.


When Grealish played, he would have Nathan Ake always covering him at left back, allowing the licence for the England forward to have more freedom and create more chances to score. City in attack would revert to a 3-2-2-3, forming a box midfield.


During the Champions League final, Pep Guardiola lined up with four centre backs across the back four. However, John Stones would step up in midfield to join Rodri as the two holding midfielders. This would leave Ake, Dias and Akanji (who started right back) as a back three.


However, throughout the majority of the season before Guardiola developed Stones into a comfortable midfielder, it would be Kyle Walker and right back stepping up to midfield to help out Rodri in possession.


Another change was the freedom of swapping places in attack, As we all know, Grealish loves to cut inside to the centre of the pitch. Therefore, the England forward had the licence to drift inside, allowing for De Bruyne to drift out wide. This worked very well as we all know about De Bruyne's crossing abilities and Haaland's finishing abilities.


With these tweaks it allows Grealish to combine with world-class midfielders, which creates a devastating attack that teams simply cannot defend against.


This was proven as City would go on to win the treble, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League. Grealish personally scored 5 goals and assisted 7 in 23 games. Although that doesn't seem out of this world, the City team shared goals across the team and also had the majority of their goals scored by Haaland.


Since after the World Cup, Grealish had stepped up his game in every attacking department, as shown in the picture by @SayedZeesh on Twitter:



Now the £100 million spent on Jack Grealish back in 2021 seems worth it, doesn't it? Do you believe Grealish has now proved himself at Manchester City?

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