The battle between the PFA and A-League owners underlines the challenges faced by football in Australia. It’s time the PFA show some leadership and deal with reality.
As it stands, Aston Villa sit 19th in the Premier League on 25 points with Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham all sitting on 27 points with superior goal difference to the Villans.
After a stellar second half of the 18-19 season under Dean Smith ended in promotion through the play-offs, and a £141 million ($285 million AUD) spend in the summer transfer market, it is fair to say that the Villa squad as a whole has underperformed in the club’s first season in the Premier League since 2016.
One area in particular in which the Birmingham outfit has struggled is in attack. Record signing Wesley from Club Brugge had only scored five goals in the league before rupturing his cruciate ligament in January, ruling him out until at least June, and his replacement Mbwana Samatta has only scored once since his move from KRC Genk.
Wingers Anwar El Ghazi and Trézéguet have only scored seven goals between them in 3000 minutes. However, there is one attacker who has taken the step up to the Premier League like a fish into water, that player being club captain Jack Grealish.
Often players in the past have struggled to replicate form shown in the Championship to that in the Premier League, with strikers such as David Nugent and Jordan Rhodes being prime examples of players who couldn’t cut it in the English top flight.
However, Jack Grealish’s form has actually improved since his move up to the Premier League, a feat that has been met by very few players.
In Villa’s 2018-19 championship campaign that ultimately lead to their promotion through the play-offs, Grealish registered six goals and seven assists as well as completing 1.8 dribbles and 2.3 key passes per 90, as well as registering 2.1 shots and being fouled 4.7 times a game, more than double any other play in the Championship that season.
However, Grealish has managed to improve on these already impressive figures since his move up to the Premier League. He has recorded seven goals and six assists so far this season in approximately 600 less minutes. He has also improved on his dribbles and key passes per 90, increasing to 2.2 and 2.7 respectively.
One of the key stats of which he as improved on again in the Premier league that has also been crucial to Villa’s attack this season is the amount of times Grealish is fouled per 90. This season he is again the most fouled player in the league at 4.9 a game, up from 4.7 last season.
This has been particularly important to the Villans as they sit equal fourth in the league for set piece goals at ten, which is a third of the goals scored by them in this campaign.
Interest for Grealish from other English clubs has risen as the season goes on, and the likelihood of Villa getting relegated back to the Championship looks more likely, with Manchester United looking most likely to snap up the 24-year-old in the summer.
If Villa were to get relegated this season, there is little doubt that it would signal the departure of their most prized asset and club captain to another Premier League club.
Once the season resumes from the indefinite break caused by the Coronavirus outbreak, Grealish will once again have to step up for his boyhood club in order to save them from going straight back down to the Championship.
Not only would a relegation back to the second tier tarnish the historic prestige of a club the size of Aston Villa, but would test the financial position of a club who not only spent vast amounts of money on players in the summer, but also the monumental losses each club will have to absorb due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Although Villa fans can look forward to the potential returns of star midfielder John McGinn and their record signing Wesley from injury once the season resumes, the form and output of club captain Jack Grealish will ultimately decide whether this prestigious club plays Premier League football in the 2020-21 season.