Football, bloody hell! Sir Alex Ferguson may have immortalized these words, but Manchester City found out their true meaning. Pep Guardiola and co. were minutes away from making a second consecutive UEFA Champions League final.
However, Los Blancos scored twice in injury time to force extra time. Karim Benzema continued his historic season with another cold penalty to prove why Real Madrid are kings of the competition.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) May 4, 2022
Guardiola had shown his cards early on by bringing on defensive reinforcements, but it did not work. However, one player who had another poor outing was Jack Grealish. The £100m attacker had two great chances to kill the tie off in the final five minutes, but a combination of poor finishing and great reflexes denied him.
It was 1-0 when Grealish came on and City were cruising. He missed two massive chances and could only watch on as his team collapsed to a humiliating defeat.
It's not been the best first season for Jack has it? 😕 pic.twitter.com/Wbx6UD7iuO
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) May 4, 2022
Manchester City switched off towards the end of the game, and Guardiola’s decisions will come under the scanner. Moreover, the injury to Kyle Walker did not help matters either. Nevertheless, Grealish will cop a lot of the blame in a season filled with mediocrity.
Of course, it is not all on Jack Grealish. His teammates missed several great chances, especially in the first leg. However, Grealish is under fire for how average he has been during the season. A docile debut in 2021 laid bare just how different things would be from his Aston Villa days.
Grealish was the undisputed star for the Villans and led his boyhood club to the Premier League. Moreover, he fit like a glove in the system, and Dean Smith knew how to get the best out of him.
📊 Jack Grealish's record for Aston Villa in the Premier League last season pic.twitter.com/l6FoGJPLfn
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) July 30, 2021
At Manchester City, things have been very different. The defending league champions have a squad filled with star-studded names. Grealish is just “one of many” players who are fighting for their places in the lineup. Of course, some players are the first names on the team sheet.
The problem is Grealish was expected to be one eventually but has seen others continuously getting the nod over him. Grealish has had just four goal contributions (two goals, two assists) in the Premier League.
What. A. Goal!
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 15, 2021
That is his lowest tally since the 2015-16 season. Moreover, what has also worked against Grealish is how he has often been anonymous in games. Granted, there have been flashes of brilliance like in Spain but the end product has not been there. He has taken just 38 shots in the league, lower than any of the past five seasons.
🤯 "You go out and spend £100 million on a player you don't consider good enough to start… How can that be!?"
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) May 4, 2022
Similarly, his shot-creating actions have dipped from 150 in 2020-21 to 91 in 2021-22. The 21 goal-creating actions for Villa last season have whittled down to just six for City. Of course, all of this is not his fault, but the fans are getting restless over the continued subpar performances.
Rough times, rougher reception
It is no big secret that the signing of Grealish was an afterthought for Manchester City. Harry Kane was the preferred target as the automatic replacement for Sergio Aguero. When Spurs refused to sell, City turned to Grealish to supplement their front line.
Villa were unmoved until the special release clause was activated for £100m. Therefore, he was always starting his City career fighting against negative perceptions.
"The answer is really simple… Tottenham didn't want to sell Kane!"
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) April 5, 2022
Though he is a darling of England supporters and Gareth Southgate, Grealish’s position at City is far more uncertain. Guardiola has revived the careers of Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus, and Raheem Sterling.
That came as bad news for Grealish, who was hoping to take over the left flank of City’s front three. Moreover, given how Kevin De Bruyne has locked down the attacking midfield position, Grealish has had to be forced out.
That's an incredible stat on Sky. Jack Grealish has played only 52% of minutes for Man City this season. £100M signing.
— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) March 6, 2022
Guardiola is hesitant to play Grealish for an entire match. He played a combined 22 minutes against Atletico Madrid over the two legs. That came down to seven against Liverpool in that intense 2-2 draw in early April.
Supporters have been patient but have not been shy to voice their frustrations. Those decibels will only rise following the significance of the two misses against Real Madrid.
Good player, better future?
Is Jack Grealish a good player? Yes. Is he a great player? He can be. The talent, instincts, skills, etc., are all there. Moreover, his underlying statistics are very decent.
Grealish has averaged 13.47 progressive carries per 90 over the last year, putting him in the top 99 percentile of players. He has taken 8.09 touches per 90 in the opposition’s penalty area while receiving 8.80 progressive passes per 90.
Manchester City fans , players will just keep seeing that Jack Grealish effort flash across goal and hit the stud of Courtois before going behind,that goes 2-0 that’s game over,that was the real turning point if you like , seemed to lift Real Madrid and the ending was astonishing
— Josh Bunting (@Buntingfootball) May 4, 2022
All of it indicates that Grealish is taking up good positions and being a part of the attack. However, when it comes to the crucial moments or that final flair, something is missing. Grealish’s off-field image has also played a part, with observers noticing him more fashionable tastes rather than football.
🔐 Only Bruno Fernandes (2.3) averages more key passes from open play per game than Jack Grealish (2.1) in the Premier League this season pic.twitter.com/DkV6sO7b8y
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 26, 2022
Of course, there is nothing wrong with using your personal time in any way as Jack Grealish was signed by Gucci. Nevertheless, until he starts becoming more impactful and working hard in training, City will have to drag around the weight of his price tag.