Jack Grealish has had many better games for Manchester City this season where he has failed to get a goal or assist
A frustrated Erling Haaland told his teammates after the Leeds game that he could have scored five goals, and the same could be said for Jack Grealish.
Manchester City’s No.10 missed a host of chances in the first half before teeing up his striker twice in the second half to bounce back and help his team to three more vital Premier League points. As precious as the assists are, Grealish could easily have gone for goal himself both times and nobody could have accused him of being greedy.
Pep Guardiola has insisted for a long time that Grealish’s role at City isn’t really about goals and assists, and to a degree he is right. But there is no getting away from the fact that they are the simplest way to view attacking contributions and it is the simple things that linger longest in collective minds: goals win games.
That’s why Grealish knows he needs more of them, and so too does his manager. It was a surprise that the former Villa man’s two assists at Leeds were his first of the season, just as the fact is that he has only one City goal this term.
Not only are they not the numbers anyone would expect of a £100m player, but they aren’t the numbers that anyone who has watched Grealish all season would think he had. He has had far better games than last night and not come away with anything to his name.
That is why Guardiola retains faith in him, but if there is still more of a clinical impact needed in front of goal there is also merit in trying to regularly pick out Haaland. The pairing combined brilliantly in pre-season to send expectations rocketing before an injury to Grealish set him back and allowed other partnerships to form in his absence.
The City squad know that if they can get the ball to their big Norwegian then most of the time he will shine, and while Grealish must still be more selfish in possession there is no harm at all in maximising his chance of assists by doing exactly what he did at Leeds. Haaland himself was well below his best at Elland Road yet came away with two goals, and that is exactly the kind of thing that Grealish needs to do more of – something his teammate Riyad Mahrez is also particularly good at.
Ticking away with assists will take more pressure off the rest of his game and quieten the regular debate about how much he contributes to the team, giving Grealish something more black and white than a defence from his manager to show as his contribution.