The COVID all clear that Australia is currently enjoying sees A-League matches coming on thick and fast. Another seven will take place in Match Week 10, beginning with the return of the Glory on Friday night when they take on Brisbane Roar.
Jack Grealish has been at Aston Villa for 19 years and has never got the appreciation he deserved.
He has had the chance to leave multiple times but has always stayed true to his roots and remained with his local side despite getting offers from the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.
After single-handedly saving Aston Villa from relegation last season he has guided Villa to an exceptional start to the season that sees them in contention for European places. With the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Harry Kane clogging up the headlines, where is the love for the league’s most underappreciated star.
How does he compare to the league’s ‘elite’?
Why does Jack Grealish deserve the headlines over the likes of Kane and Fernandes? The stats tell the story.
He has astronomical consistency in nearly all areas of attacking play and is in the upper echelon of starts in nearly all areas as well. He proves to be the catalyst for nearly all of Aston Villa’s attacking moves and shows quality in all areas.
The key stats here are that he leads the league for expected assists with 6.4, leads the league for key passes that lead to shots, is second in the league for live passes leading to a goal and leads the league for key passes per game with 3.7.
All these stats show that he is competing with and leading the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Kevin De Bruyne. As well as the fact that he leads the league for shot-creating action and carries into the final third. This shows he has the ability and confidence to take a game on and change it in an instant.
A common misconception with Jack Grealish and Aston Villa is that he is being force-fed the ball more than anyone else in the league and his stats are skewed by how much he is fed the ball. However, a very interesting stat states that Jack Grealish is the 26th most targeted player by passes in the league, with 852 passes targeted to him. Compare this with Bruno Fernades, who is fourth in the league with 1104 passes targeted to him.
How important is he to Villa?
The above stats show how important Jack Grealish is to the way Aston Villa play and he is undeniably their best player by terms of pure talent. However, it’s more the system that is played by Dean Smith’s men that allows the best of Grealish to be displayed week in and week out.
Playing a 4-2-3-1 system, at the start of the season Grealish operated off the left wing with Ollie Watkins in front of him and Ross Barkley in the No. 10 role. However, with Barkley’s recent injury, Grealish has been moved into the No. 10 role behind the striker and is enjoying some success there, scoring two goals in five games and averaging an 8.0 rating according to Sofascore.
Villa approached the game with a direct and aggressive style, favouring high risk and high reward, as could be seen in the 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool and the 4-3 loss to Southampton.
Grealish is integral to that style with his adventurous attacking play, taking the game on at any possible opportunity with his deadly eye for a pass. He is the key cog that makes the system tick. Considering he is leading the league for progressive carries, carries into the final third and carries into the penalty box – and he’s second at Aston Villa for overall passes attempted – he is absolutely crucial to the team.
How good can he be?
Jack Grealish has shown that he can overcome adversity and is willing to stick with his boyhood club through thick and thin. He is constantly overlooked by Gareth Southgate, who favours different types of players, like Mason Mount and Kelvin Phillips. He is still performing week in and week out at the highest level for his club despite all the obstacles he has faced. That he is yet to win any official award from the Premier League despite performing to such high levels on an extraordinarily consistent basis is borderline criminal.
How good can he be? Well, his potential is limitless. He has shown how good he can be; now it’s up to everyone else to recognise the talent that he possesses.
Based on the stats it’s hard to deny that he has been up there with the Premier League’s best overall player this season, and it’s also hard to deny that he is the most underappreciated star in the Premier League.