Talking Tactics

Grealish relishing responsibility of being Villa's talisman

By Adrian Clarke 26 Jan 2020
Jack Grealish, Aston Villa

Adrian Clarke looks at how the young midfielder, a candidate for TAG Heuer Young Player of the Season, has become the star at Villa Park

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Ahead of the TAG Heuer Young Player of the Season award being decided in May, Adrian Clarke looks at eligible players, aged 23 or under at the start of 2019/20, who have shone this campaign.

Jack Grealish (Aston Villa)

Aston Villa's captain has led by example and emerged as a talismanic figure for Dean Smith's promoted side.

The 24-year-old has been their standout player, being directly involved in 38.7 per cent of their Premier League goals in 2019/20.

Scoring seven times and producing five assists, Grealish has been consistency personified in the final third.

Grealish's goal threat 2019/20
Premier League Total AVL rank
Goals 7 1st
Mins/goal 282 1st
Shots 38 1st
Touches in opp. box 97 1st

Having started the campaign on the left side of a midfield three, a change of system from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 has pushed Grealish into a more advanced role.

The majority of his best work still occurs on the left, where he has developed a great understanding with wing-back Matt Targett.

But, playing further forward, he now breaks into the opposition box far more regularly than before.

This tactical tweak is paying off. No Villa player has had more touches in the box, or taken more shots this season than Grealish.

Whether he is creating chances, scoring goals with either foot or producing moments of individual magic, his end product has been outstanding.

Watch Grealish's goal against Brighton


Playing for a side who average just 44 per cent possession in each match, Grealish has to make the most of his opportunities on the ball, and he does.

Given the freedom by Smith to find pockets of space inside the final third, and not just on the left, he loves to receive the ball on the half-turn before running at defenders.

With exceptionally quick feet and tremendous balance, the academy graduate is one of the division's best at drifting past opponents.

And that subtlety and skill has also drawn an extraordinary amount of fouls.

Grealish has been fouled on 106 occasions in total, 31 times more than Wilfried Zaha, the second-highest on the list of the most-fouled Premier League players.

Villa lack a touch of guile compared to some of their top-flight rivals, so Grealish's intelligence and trickery is a huge asset.

 Grealish's dribbling success 2019/20
Premier League Total AVL rank
Duels won 192 1st
Fouls won 106 1st
Completed dribbles 50 1st

It is unusual for somebody operating on the left side of a forward line to lead the passing stats, but Grealish is the top performer in that category too.

Villa try to involve him as often as possible, feeding passes in to their chief conductor.

He carries a huge burden of responsibility and has responded in style, raising his own standards.

Grealish's passing 2019/20
Premier League Total AVL rank
Assists 5 1st
Key passes 58 1st
Passes 894 1st
Passes into the box 125 1st

Grealish is thriving as Villa's main man and enjoying the best campaign of his career to date.

Right now it is hard to think of a player who is more important to his club's prospects.

Also in this series

Part 1: Sheffield United in safe hands with Henderson
Part 3: Explosive Traore a force to be recokoned with

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