Jack Grealish has been Aston Villa’s shining light this season. The Birmingham-born captain demonstrates his quality week in, week out and, as Heart Of The Holte’s Dan Morgan writes, it’s now becoming impossible for Gareth Southgate to ignore him.
With roughly two months left until the final international break ahead of Euro 2020, there are a handful of players on the fringes of an England call-up. The only player on the tip of most Brummies’ tongues, though, is Jack Grealish.
The Grealish you think you know is more than likely not the Grealish us Villa fans know, and who have had the privilege of watching for the past six seasons. While others continue to put our Jack in a box, he continues to break out, repeatedly re-defining himself to prove he’s undoubtedly England’s best midfielder.
Gareth Southgate has no choice but to pick Grealish in his final England squad before the Euros…and here’s why.
Stats Don’t Lie
Grealish has provided more goal contributions than any other English midfielder: nine goals and six assists in all competitions so far this season. James Maddison – nine goals, three assists – and Mason Mount – five goals, three assists – are his direct competition, and he’s outperformed both (while playing in a struggling side, I might add).
On the biggest domestic stage in the world, Grealish is not only dictating games, but is actively producing moments of magic to decide them. He’s single-handedly dragging what is essentially a relegation-level Villa side, his boyhood club, to Premier League safety.
Now, I’m not naive or shallow enough to believe that performances solely revolve around goals, so, let’s dig a little deeper.
On top of his goal contributions, Grealish isn’t even playing in his favoured position. Villa have played two formations this season – a 4-3-3 and a 3-4-3 – with Grealish occupying the left flank.
Jack isn’t a conventional winger, or even a winger at all. Yet his ability to dribble with the ball and glide past players, in a way that can only be described as ‘Gascoigne-esque’, isolates full-backs and pressures players into action, which fundamentally creates space for others.
This forces defenders to make a decision: either commit a foul or end up on your backside as Grealish slaloms around you. And yet, despite having such a huge impact out wide, I can’t help but feel Grealish's talents are still much better utilised elsewhere.
“His scintillating dribbling and newfound eye for goal point towards Grealish being the perfect box-to-box midfielder.”
Dan Morgan, Heart Of The Holte
Grealish has also answered his critics when asked to improve the defensive aspects of his game, showcasing on many occasions his ability to win the ball back in deep positions and transition quickly, demonstrating the qualities of a number six.
These improved defensive attributes, paired with his scintillating dribbling and newfound eye for goal, point towards Grealish being the perfect box-to-box midfielder – a position Jack also sees as his best: number eight.
Villa boss Dean Smith addressed the matter of Grealish’s previous lack of goals and assists by moving him further up the pitch. But what does that mean for Grealish and England?
Southgate has previously put his reasoning for not including Grealish in England squads down to the fact he’s playing as a winger – a position England aren’t exactly short in.
However, they are now short on fit ones, with players such as Marcus Rashford out for a prolonged period. With that, Grealish may well have forced his way into the next England squad.
Despite featuring out wide for Villa, I still see Jack as more of a number eight in an England shirt; the box-to-box midfielder who plays between a Maddison and a Rice or Henderson.
One thing I am certain of is that, in the summer, we’ll see Grealish represent England. With the way things are going, Southgate and the rest of the country simply can’t afford to ignore ‘Super Jack’ any longer.
Follow Dan on Twitter @danmorgi34
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