The 20-year-old midfielder has looked increasingly off the pace for several games now.
While Jack Grealish’s talent certainly cannot be denied, anyone who has seen the 20-year-old playmaker in action in recent weeks will have been left underwhelmed to say the least.
After bursting onto the Premier League scene during last season’s run-in, Aston Villa’s star prospect seemed primed to take another big step forward this term, but his campaign has so far been filled more with frustration rather than the dazzling performances we expected.
A hamstring injury prevent the youngster from playing in any of the first-team’s pre-season friendlies, and while he was back in the line-up in August, an ankle problem suffered later that month set him further back and forced then manager Tim Sherwood to put him through extra training sessions instead of letting him join up with the England camp during the last international break.
There have been some flashes of brilliance in the meantime, such as in the 1-0 Capital One Cup third-round victory over Birmingham City, when he came on at half-time to completely change the game in the hosts’ favour, but those moments have been few and far between since that match on 22 September.
Monday night’s 3-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur was the latest in a recent line of subpar displays from the Solihull-born midfielder, as he cut a peripheral figure from the No. 10 spot before being hauled off for Carles Gil in the 65th-minute after struggling through the opening stages of the second half.
Some might want to blame the team’s own ongoing plight for his poor form, but having seen how fellow playmaker Gil immediately offered Villa the spark that they have so desperately been missing in his latest 25th-minute appearance, that argument just does not hold water.
New manager Remi Garde was watching on from the stands at White Hart Lane, and with the former Lyon boss now preparing for his first game in charge against Manchester City on Sunday, Grealish’s struggles leave him facing somewhat of a selection dilemma.
The dynamic Gil certainly looks like he deserves to be handed the keys to the attack in the post-Sherwood era, and while Garde could opt to start both the Spaniard and Grealish in the same line-up like his predecessor did at times, he may decide that there is no room for two No. 10s in a struggling side that has taken just four points from 11 league games.
Pushing the homegrown youngster back out to the winger, where there would be less responsibility and pressure on him to perform, is one potential solution, but given how off the pace he has looked since the Birmingham win, it might not hurt for him to spend an extended spell on the bench either.
While undoubtedly one of English football’s most promising talents, this is still a player who has less than 30 Premier League career appearances under his belt, and having just turned 20 in September, he still needs his manager to protect him at times.
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Fortunately, in Garde, Villa have a new boss who developed a first-rate reputation for working with young talent during his time at Lyon, but how he handles Grealish in the short-term will be interesting to see.
Clearly affected by the burden of trying to lift his boyhood club off the bottom of the table, making the academy product an impact sub could be a wise move until he rediscovers his form of last April, and in the likes of Jordan Ayew, Scott Sinclair and Adama Traore, there are options who are fully capable of filling in for the time being.
We will no doubt see Grealish back to his skilful best before long, upon which point he will deserve a spot in Garde’s first-choice XI, but right now giving him a breather might be the best thing for both him and Villa on a whole.