Jack Grealish is, finally, a Manchester City player.
The Premier League champions have long been linked with the Aston Villa captain and, after weeks of speculation, a deal worth a reported £100million – a Premier League record – takes him to the Etihad Stadium.
Grealish, along with Harry Kane, reportedly represented City’s top target as Pep Guardiola adds further creativity to an attacking unit which was already the envy of European football.
With the deal complete, Stats Perform has assessed what Grealish will bring to his new club.
Grealish played 26 times in the league last season, missing 12 games towards the end of the campaign due to a shin injury.
He scored six times, adding 10 assists. His 70 chances created from open play was 26 more than any other Villa player, and only seven shy of Bruno Fernandes’ league-leading 77.
When counting chances created in total, including from set plays, Grealish (81) ranked third in the league, behind Mason Mount (87) and Fernandes (95), though they played 10 and 11 games more than the Villa captain respectively.
Grealish outscored his expected goals tally of 4.65, while only Harry Kane (14), Kevin De Bruyne (12) and Fernandes (12) supplied more assists.
The playmaker, who generally featured on the left flank for Villa, attempted 110 dribbles, tallying up a success rate of 59.09 per cent, the seventh-best out of Premier League players to attempt 100 or more dribbles.
HOW HE WILL FIT IN
Capable of playing centrally or wide, Grealish will add another high-quality, versatile option to Guardiola’s already packed squad. His 81 chances created leads the way out of City and Villa players from last term, with De Bruyne (80) a close second.
No Villa or City player attempted or completed more dribbles than Grealish, whose ability to carry the ball into dangerous positions and then release a timely pass will surely be a big draw for Guardiola, though he will want sharp, snappy passing to be brought into the midfielder’s game.
Based on City’s current options, Grealish would likely be competing with De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez – though several of those players have been linked with moves away – for a place in the team, either as a central midfielder or a wide attacker in the champions’ preferred 4-3-3 system.
Of that sextet, only De Bruyne played more passes, including crosses, into the penalty area (239) than Grealish. However, he was some 90 ahead, while playing one game less.
Grealish’s shot count of 50 ranked him fifth out of those seven players, with his shot conversion rate of 12 per cent also the fifth-best.
De Bruyne (7.4 per cent from 80) and Silva (7.14 per cent from 28) had a lower conversion percentage, though logic would suggest Grealish will have more opportunities to shoot in a City team that managed 599 attempts last season, 79 more than Villa’s total.
HOW WILL VILLA MANAGE?
Villa had already gone some way to mitigating the damage a potential transfer would cause, with Emiliano Buendia – a creative fulcrum for Norwich City last season – arriving earlier in the transfer window.
Ashley Young has made a return to Villa Park on a free transfer from Serie A champions Inter, while Villa also made several bids for Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe before the 20-year-old signed a new deal with the Gunners.
Leon Bailey, Bayer Leverkusen’s flying winger, was confirmed as a Villa player on Wednesday, meanwhile.
The Jamaica international scored 15 goals and provided 10 assists in 40 appearances last season, and his arrival could certainly soften the blow somewhat, though there is a chance he may need time to adapt from the Bundesliga.
Bailey created 63 chances in total, with 11 of these classed as ‘big chances’ – Grealish, by comparison, created 14 such opportunities in league football in 2020-21.
And Bailey’s arrival was quickly followed by that of Danny Ings, a shock recruit from Southampton. The England forward has scored 31 non-penalty goals in the Premier League over the past two seasons, a tally only topped by Mohamed Salah (32) and Kane (35).
While Villa will still have to adapt without Grealish, they could also yet pursue significant upgrades elsewhere in the squad as Dean Smith looks to push for European qualification. Norwich’s Todd Cantwell and Southampton and England midfielder James Ward-Prowse have been linked.
City, meanwhile, have signed one of English football’s best talents, with Grealish having the opportunity to head into his prime years at one of Europe’s leading clubs.