In Focus: Jack the lad is a perfect fit for Pep's star-studded side
With 69 minutes on the clock and England locked in a stalemate with Germany, a huge roar erupted at Wembley — Jack Grealish was ready to come on.
A 21-minute cameo saw the former Aston Villa captain play a key pass for the Three Lions’ breakthrough goal. And better was to come when he set up Harry Kane to seal an historic win for Gareth Southgate’s men.
In that moment the outcry for the 25-year-old to be in England's starting XI was almost as great as the clamour to sign him.
Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United were all linked with the dynamic playmaker but Manchester City swiftly emerged as favourites.
Having parted with a Premier League record transfer fee of £100million to sign him, the Citizens have secured one of world football’s most exciting talents.
But how will Grealish fit in?
A surplus of creative midfielders
There is a plethora of creative players already at the Etihad Stadium, so the Premier League’s record signing will have to fight for his place.
Breaking into this City side could initially be a tough task. The players Grealish has joined already know Pep Guardiola’s tactical set-up inside and out.
Although he should ultimately become a frequent starter, Grealish is likely to find himself without the week-to-week continuity he was used to at Villa.
To prove his worth at the highest level, City's new No10 must show he can cope with reduced game time while still producing his best and most creative football.
Versatility is key
Grealish’s ability to play in multiple positions may be crucial to securing a regular starting berth.
Though he is primarily a left winger, there have also been plenty of occasions when he has featured as an attacking midfielder just behind the striker — most recently in England’s 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic at Euro 2020.
This versatility will benefit Grealish’s chances of selection, especially with wingers often being asked to drop into central areas to control the tempo in Guardiola’s system.
The 12-cap England international’s ability to fulfil both of these roles should appeal to his new manager and ensure he becomes a key part of City’s midfield machine.
From talisman to a cog in the wheel
Last season, Grealish established himself as one of the most prolific playmakers in the Premier League and created 3.34 chances per 90 minutes — a feat only bettered by his new team-mate Kevin De Bruyne (3.6).
But it is necessary to consider how Grealish’s role at City will change.
Villa’s team was built around his flamboyant style and ability to single-handedly dictate games — but he will no longer be the main man at The Etihad.
Surrounded by players of a similar ilk, the Birmingham-born maestro will not be given a free role to create and must show he can have a similar impact as one of many world-class attackers.
Ultimately, this will decide whether he will be a success in a sky blue shirt.
Guardiola has never been a coach to hide his opinions of opposition players, as highlighted by his infamous post-match discussion with Southampton’s Nathan Redmond back in 2017.
And the Spanish tactician has always been full of praise for Grealish.
Speaking in 2020, he said: "He’s an exceptional player, I didn't know him before I came here, he was playing in the Championship. Honestly, an exceptional player."
He later commented: "They have one of the best players in the league in Grealish, I am a big fan of him."
That enthusiasm for his new signing certainly bodes well for City’s latest addition.
A hard worker
Although Grealish’s attacking qualities are abundantly clear, a Guardiola player must also fulfil their duties off the ball.
Despite perceptions about the his defensive work rate, this is actually an area in which the Three Lions star excels.
In fact, last season he ranked ninth in the Premier League for possessions won in the final third with an impressive 1.03 per 90.
If he can keep up or even improve on these numbers in Manchester, it will be near impossible to leave him out.
Grealish will undoubtedly have to adapt in order to fit City’s system and dislodge Guardiola’s trusted first-team members.
But given the unique skill set and determined character, the England star is more than capable of making his mark at the Etihad.