As we head into another unwanted international break, Aston Villa signed off in spectacular style with a 5-1 battering of also promoted Norwich City at Carrow Road.
Among many positives from the game was the inspirational form of skipper Jack Grealish. With the inclusion of Conor Hourihane in the past couple of matches at the expense of Mahmoud Trezeguet, the tactical switch has allowed Grealish to operate much further up the pitch, showcasing his precocious talents to much better effect than we have seen so far this season.
Grealish’s performance will no doubt have come to the attention of England coach Gareth Southgate, who chose to overlook the Villa captain for the upcoming qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. But Grealish himself accepts the decision to leave him out this time around.
“I know for a fact if I play to the best of my ability then I can get in there. This time, truthfully, I did not expect to get in.”
In terms of his performances at club level, Grealish wants to lead by example and is relishing the move into a more attacking role.
“When the manager first pulled me and asked how I felt about playing there, I said: ‘Listen, I will play wherever’. Obviously, I have my certain positions but I am just happy to be on the pitch. I am captain and I want to lead by example and anywhere I play will be fine.
I liked this position because I am not really playing as a left-winger I am in off the left, kind of like a No.10.”
The icing on the cake at Norwich was Grealish’s first Premier League goal since September 2015 (the ill-fated defeat at Leicester), but he had a hand in all the goals as he stamped his authority on the match in his new advanced role.
Villa’s performances so far this season have not been reflected in the results – until now. Hopefully Dean Smith has made the tactical tweak which will allow Villa to truly express themselves.
If we can cut out the defensive lapses (Tyrone Mings again on Saturday seemed to have a momentary brain freeze which denied us the clean sheet), there are many reasons to be positive and hopeful.
A clean bill of health after the internationals, followed by another good (and winning!) performance against Brighton will set us up nicely for a tougher run against Liverpool, Manchester City and Wolves in the games to come.
One thing is for sure – a fully-firing Jack Grealish will make those tough fixtures much more bearable.
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“A fascinating look at his battles and victories.”
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