Date: 23rd September 2019 at 7:30am
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Following on from last Monday’s scoreless draw with West Ham United, Aston Villa have spent all week preparing for another tough Premier League clash but this time against (not what they used to be) Arsenal.

With fans debating the relative merits of our efforts this year, formation tweaks that might suit us better and the individual performances of both our existing crop of players, and those who joined us over the summer, Jack Grealish’s impact in the top flight is a hot favourite for debate.

There are those who feel he’s struggling, dropping too deep and then losing the ball too easily in advanced areas, just as there are those who feel movement from the rest of the squad forces him to turn backwards and lose momentum – simply because as a player who’s more likely to create the assist rather than provide the assist, he has no out ball.

We saw that again in the 3-2 defeat to Arsenal unfortunately but Jack did grab himself an assist in the game, he provided four key passes had our most touches in the clash, proving again how he’s key to most of what we do.

Speaking ahead of the game, Vital Villa forum member danvilla2 gave his thoughts on the Jack situation during the week, I think most will agree with his line of thinking.

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Jack isn’t a natural goalscorer for me, not in the Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard category at least. At the top level he’ll get 1 in 6 at best. I don’t see him slotting balls home from outside of the box on a regular basis because of the way we play, he won’t get the time to run onto a ball in several yards of space and slot it away with his first touch. Even if we played that way, it’s not really his game.

What I’d like to see more of from Jack is finding those quality passes (Kevin De Bruyne types) to the other forward players more often. It’s all very well dancing on the ball, taking 4-5 touches 30 yards from the opposition’s goal but the decision making still needs to improve. There are times when having someone who can put their foot on the ball and slow the game down is needed, we’ve all seen teams where it’s a hot potato and ends up coming back. There are also times where two touches is what’s needed to keep the ball moving, or the other players get marked.

The top central midfielders in the world actually start many games getting the ball with a good touch and moving it on quickly. The Iniesta’s of the world only start to take 3-4 touches when the opposition are worn down.

Posters have said before on here – and I agree – Jack is the pass before the pass, the first against Everton was typical of that as he took two players out of the game, ended up getting fouled, got on his feet and played it quickly to Jota who found Wes.

I think Jack is being coached well, the quick thinking above proved that. He’s a much more mature player than what he was 2-3 years ago which is natural but doesn’t always happen with young, hyped players.

I think the next stage for him is identifying what type of player he wants to be. Is he a number 10? Central midfielder? Box to box? Ball carrier? When he and the coaches get this right, he needs to work on the things that will make him great in this role.

If I was him I would be looking at players like the Silva’s at Man City. There’s a lot of competition in the England squad with the likes of Alli, Barkley, Mount in that attacking central midfielder position. If he models his game on the Silvas he gives himself a different dimension to those which I think could make him more effective. If he can get the ball 30 yards from goal and wide with the ability to cut in or go wide, he’ll bring people into play and allow us to get more balls into the box.

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