Throughout the length of this season, Manchester United have been constantly linked with Aston Villa’s attacking midfielder Jack Grealish. He has consistently impressed with his performances in trying to keep Aston Villa up in the Premier League, contributing 7 goals and 6 assists in 26 league appearances. One of his strengths is his versatility in playing positions.
|Left Attacking Midfield||1||0||0|
As we can see from the numbers, he has primarily played on the left of a front 3 this season. Aston Villa have set up mostly in either a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3 this season, which has seen the Villa captain play on the left side of the attack, where he will often cut inside to central areas so that he can get on the ball more frequently. When Villa have set up in a 4-2-3-1, he has started in his much more preferred number ten position, which is his most natural position to play in. This allows him the freedom to influence all over the attacking third. The tactics of the side are often to get Grealish on the ball as much as possible, as he is by far their most potent creative threat in the side. Due to his impressive ball retention qualities and his attacking output, he has become a bit of a mix between a 2020 midfielder and a ‘number 10’ as we would know it. Most sides are moving, or have already moved, to midfield 3’s, so don’t utilise the traditional number 10 anymore. By looking at his xGChain90 – 0.60, we can see how much he influences his sides attacking play, as he is heavily involved in the shots taken by Villa. He also averages 2.70 key passes per 90 as he is very capable at picking out runners and is on his way to mastering the through ball.
Now, when we look at United, it might not be glaringly obvious where he would fit in the side. At the moment, we usually line up in a 4-2-3-1, and this seems to be the formation that Ole is going to stick with for the majority of our matches, for the foreseeable future at least. With the recent signing of Bruno Fernandes, he now occupies the number 10 role in the side that we so desperately needed as Ole has said in interviews, in Bruno he now has his long term number 10, so Grealish would not presumably usurp him. This also means, that if Grealish was to join, it is highly unlikely he would get many plays in his preferred position. On the left wing, Rashford has that spot more or less solidified in stone, so again, not much chance for Jack on that left side. That either leaves him as a bench player, to rotate for Rashford and Bruno, or for him to play a role deeper in midfield. Now in this situation, if Pogba stays, a Bruno, Pogba and Grealish midfield is extremely attacking and would most likely struggle, especially against the bigger sides. A better scenario, for Grealish, would be for Pogba to leave and then for him to operate in a midfield pivot with either Matic or McTominay (assuming no other midfield signings take place this summer). Either of these midfielders would be able to operate the holding role in front of the defence much better, and cover for Grealish’s lack of defensive prowess. Grealish is press resistant to an extent as dribbling and holding on to the ball are some of his strongest qualities, as he completes 2.3 dribbles per 90, so would definitely help us with our creativity from midfield and moving the ball into the attacking third. This is all assuming he could carry over his skills from further up the field, and bring them to this deeper role he would have to take up. Most likely, and probably the best scenario, is that he is a replacement for Lingard and/or Pereira wherein he doesn’t play all games but plays quite a few positions to a high level, so plays quite a few games filling in for other players to get a rest.
Many of the reports that are linking the Red Devils to Jack Grealish are suggesting a fee in the region of £60-70 million, which is a steep price considering his market value of around £35 million; but is to be expected with a young, English player playing in the Premier League. This valuation from Villa could change if they get relegated, but at the moment we are not exactly sure how this season will end. For the price being quoted, there are other signings who either fit the teams style better, or are a lot cheaper as they don’t carry the British premium. Despite this, if we do end up buying the Villa captain, it could still be a signing that works out for us, but would require some moving around of current players and maybe even tactical tweaks.