With such an emphatic victory it would be counter-productive to offer statistical positives and negatives – so instead this edition focuses on the impact of one player – Jack Grealish.
“A brave captain is as a root, out of which, as branches, the courage of his soldiers doth spring.”Philip Sidney
Jack Grealish truly made his return to the Premier League in Aston Villa’s 5-1 demolition of Norwich City yesterday afternoon.
The midfielder has not had a bad game as of yet, despite making a few mistakes earlier in this new campaign, but truly registered himself in the minds of opposition fans as a special talent with his display against fellow promoted side Norwich.
Played as a left forward in a front three consisting of Wesley Moraes and Anwar El Ghazi, Grealish was able to roam freely across the pitch and found himself drifting to the right-hand side at times. With the inclusion of Matt Targett and Conor Hourihane in the side, it allowed for a trifecta of position-swapping that offered more freedom to the Aston Villa captain in regards to his positioning on the pitch.
Looking at his positional map from the game, it’s clear to see that Grealish spent most of his time where he was expected to be – and where he usually spends most of his time when he’s played as a central midfielder. The more advanced role did not stop Jack from tracking back, and allowed him freedom to roam into positions to help his team-mates.
Jack Grealish registered his first Premier League goal since a stellar effort against Leicester City under Tim Sherwood, a well-worked one-two with Anwar El Ghazi that was almost reminiscent of his Goal Of The Year effort against Rotherham United last season – mazing his way through the Norwich midfield into a central position before spreading their defence with the quick passes between him and Anwar.
Looking at his statistics from the game – Jack has been doing nothing different in his gameplay. The midfielder-come-forward managed to make a similar amount of passes as he has in this last few games, and managed a similar accuracy with them too, sitting at 86%. His long passes, were, as usual, pretty accurate too, with both of his attempts finding an Aston Villa player.
He was afforded more time on the ball too – much like the Burnley game. At Carrow Road, Jack attempted five dribbles and was stopped only once in the 21st minute as Emiliano Buendia fouled him as he looked to spark a counter-attack. One of his dribbles resulted in his goal.
Jack’s attacking input was second-to-none. In this game, he played three passes into the final third, all of which were accurate, and attempted five passes into the opposition area – only one of which didn’t pay off. He played the ball in for Hourihane’s penalty call too, which could have seen another goal added to Aston Villa’s five-goal tally.
He drew another four fouls from the opposition, continuing his trend of being the most fouled player in the league. With Conor Hourihane in the side, this allows for more use from a set-piece – although nothing came from one in this game.
Grealish’s strength and conditioning work are paying off too. For a player many have cried is ‘too weak’, he’s won 60% of his offensive duels against Norwich, which is something he also managed against Burnley. He beat this in the game against Arsenal, winning almost 80% of them.
The defensive input from the player has been reduced with this tactical switch from Smith – which is visibly paying off – but Jack is still getting involved in the defensive phase, making two interceptions, five ball recoveries and one clearance against Norwich.
It’s evident that this change is benefitting Jack’s style of play, and aiding in Aston Villa’s attacking progression.
His influence statistically hasn’t changed, but his influence at face value has – something almost parallel to what is usually discussed via this medium. It’s up to Jack to keep this up now.