Since he burst into the Aston Villa first team during last season, youngster Jack Grealish has been an integral part of Villa’s side and helped them to avoid relegation and reach the FA Cup Final. Whilst he has been getting some rave reviews for performances on the pitch though, he regularly finds himself in the papers for the wrong reasons, with his behaviour off the pitch continually scrutinised. The Irish born midfielder, who has recently pledged his allegiance to England, was left out of 2 Villa games after being spotted in a Liverpool night club during a late night excursion following the 3-0 defeat at Everton. He returned to the squad for the home fixture with Arsenal but what does he need to do next in order to prove that he has a great future in the game and can be trusted?
The first thing Grealish will have to look at is to continue to improve what he is very good at already, his ability to pick a pass and unlock defences. His assists and the chances he creates could be the difference between Villa, who are currently cut adrift at the foot of the table, surviving or dropping to the second tier. This season, the midfielder has made ten appearance; eight of which were starts, and has created ten scoring chances. He has a passing success rate of 85% and the only blot on his copybook in this regard is his return of zero assists so far, although a lot of that is down to the lack of a quality striker for the Villains.
Grealish has two main weaknesses in his game, the first of which is the lack of goals. He has scored just one goal in 27 appearances, a 20 yard strike against Leicester City in the 3-2 away defeat against the Foxes on 13th September 2015. The Irishman has had 14 shots this season, 4 of which have hit the target, 3 off target and 7 blocked shots to give him a disappointing 57% shot accuracy (excluding blocked shots). With the forwards struggling for goals, it is left for the midfielders to stand up and contribute and it is now time for Grealish to show his worth to the team with some vital goals.
The England hopeful’s other main weakness is his work rate and his ability defensively. Whilst his playmaking prowess is there for the whole world to see, his work rate is of real concern with Aston Villa not capable of carrying any passengers. In the club’s current situation they need all hands on deck and will need Grealish to start busting a gut and do the job defensively too in order to help the club become more solid and put more pressure on their opposition. Grealish has made just 12 interceptions and two clearances in his 10 appearances and will need to improve on these statistics to prove that he can do all the jobs needed from a midfielder and is not a liability in a side that struggles to retain possession.
The biggest problem Grealish will have to look to resolve is his poor personal image and he can do this quite simply by not being out late in the night and by behaving himself off the pitch. This is the perfect time for him to show that he can act maturely and stay out of the news, with the Christmas period the major time for nights out. If he can behave himself over the next few weeks, especially on New Year’s Eve, then he will be able to prove a point to all his doubters with some very big games coming up over the festive period.
If Jack Grealish can sort out all the problems mentioned above and continue to improve then he has every chance of making the plane to France for Euro 2016. The Villa playmaker has to play catch up though with Everton’s Ross Barkley, Dele Alli and Eric Dier, both of Tottenham, all starring for their respective clubs and in England’s matches this season. Of the four, Grealish has played by far the least amount of games with Alli playing in 13, Dier 14 and Barkley 15. Barkley leads the way with six goals, Alli has three, with Dier ahead of Grealish too with a couple. Only Dier has created fewer chances than the Villa man, who is also 2nd in the pass success rate. Barkley is a long way ahead in both with 28 chances and a pass success rate of 88%. The final important comparison is how they do defensively, with Dier a long way ahead, Alli in second with Barkley a long way behind, but just ahead of Grealish. These stats show that Grealish has a lot of work to do to push himself into contention for England and overtake his fellow contenders, but he has shown glimpses of brilliance and has the ability to get himself on the plane. His behaviour off the pitch could be the difference between him making the team, and possibly earning himself a transfer, or being left at home for the summer and being stuck at Aston Villa, who look like heading to the Championship.
Featured image: All rights reserved by john doe.