How Aston Villa's Jack Grealish is getting some of the Premier League's roughest treatment

The stats show that opposition sides are having to resort to underhand tactics to stop Villa's teenage star.

To those who have watched a fair amount of Aston Villa this season, it should come as no surprise to discover that Jack Grealish has been on the receiving end of a fair few fouls.

However, despite that knowledge, the sheer frequency at which Villa’s teenage attacker has had to deal with the odd miss-timed or even reckless challenge during his first Premier League campaign makes for startling reading.

On average this term, Grealish has been fouled every 20 minutes which tops the charts among top-flight players who have been upended more than three times - despite his sample size being over twice as large as that of his nearest rival, Everton's Steven Pienaar.

  PositionTeamWas FouledWas Fouled MINSFouled Final ThirdAppearancesMins Played
Jack Grealish MF Aston Villa 36 20.14 17 16 725
Steven Pienaar MF Everton 15 20.93 0 9 314
Modou Barrow FW Swansea 11 22.82 5 10 251
Adlène Guédioura MF C. Palace 5 24.4 0 7 122
Adel Taarabt MF QPR 11 26.82 4 7 295

The numbers look even more startling when compared to those who have been fouled at least 30 times this season, with Grealish leading the pack by some distance over star names such as Eden Hazard, Sadio Mane and Raheem Sterling.

  PositionTeamWas FouledWas Fouled MINSFouled Final ThirdAppearancesMins Played
Jack Grealish MF Aston Villa 36 20.14 17 16 725
Sadio Mané MF Southampton 73 28.01 33 29 2,045
Eden Hazard MF Chelsea 110 29.84 43 37 3,282
Raheem Sterling MF Liverpool 94 32.45 40 35 3,050
Rémy Cabella MF Newcastle 60 32.45 22 31 1,947

The figures go some length towards highlighting what a nightmare Grealish can prove to mark, even at just 19, while also reinforcing the argument that referees should be affording him more protection.

It is a matter which manager Tim Sherwood has addressed of late, having joked following the 1-0 home win over West Ham United earlier this month that his star prospect might need to wear cricket pads after seeing him upended on countless occasions.

"Next week he's wearing those pads that Alistair Cook wears," the Villa boss told the club's official website. "He almost likes it! No-one likes getting hurt but he loves bodies around him.

"Give the ball to him in a tight area. It's something I always work on - creating a melee. He receives the ball and then he always seems to find a pass out. That allows us to get space and double-up down the corners.

"He finds a pass. They have three or four around the ball and then we're exploiting them down the sides. He's exactly what we want.

"My advice is 'continue what you're doing.' He's doing something right isn't he. He don't roll around on the floor. He gets up."

Grealish certainly doesn't seem to have been to affected by the rough treatment thus far, having rewarded Sherwood's faith in him with performances which have belied his tender age during his past seven straight starts.

Oppositions sides are clearly struggling to stop him by conventional means and that just shows what a crucial attacking weapon he could prove for his hometown club going forward.

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