Jack Grealish hasn’t had the best start to life at Manchester City, scoring just six goals with four assists from 39 games in his debut season, but Noel Whelan believes he can turn things around if he has more creative freedom on the pitch.
The 26-year-old joined on a six-year deal from Aston Villa last summer, setting City back £100m, but he didn’t always nail down a regular starting place and was inconsistent when he did get the nod – 22 Premier League starts from a possible 38 and five Champions League starts from a possible 12.
Where will Manchester City finish in the Premier League this season?
5th or lower
Whelan says Grealish’s fear of Pep Guardiola is stopping him shining on the pitch, as the City manager likes to retain possession as a defensive tactic. Grealish prefers to take on his opponent and create chances at free will, but his qualities are being stifled to fit the team.
He told Football Insider: “He needs to put this fear of Guardiola behind him. “I know there’s a bit of a worry about losing the ball in certain areas because Pep wants to keep it moving – but the fear factor has to stop. He needs to become the player he was at Aston Villa.
“We know he’s got an end product, we know he’s strong on the ball and can fly past players – but he plays a lot safer in a Man City shirt. I think Pep needs to take the shackles off him and allow him to play the game which made him a £100m player. We haven’t seen that yet.
“That’s going to be the massive challenge for him this season. Can he get rid of that fear factor and bring his own game to Man City?” Grealish scored seven goals with 12 assists from 27 games for Villa last season and was among the top chance-creators and dribblers in the Premier League.
This season has seen a major decline, so time will tell if Guardiola will let Grealish take more risks on the pitch.