Jack Grealish clicking in Pep Guardiola’s system has Manchester City looking ominous

Manchester, England – Manchester City enjoyed themselves against Leeds United on Tuesday night, and so did Jack Grealish.

Pep Guardiola’s side took a 3-0 lead after half an hour at the Etihad Stadium, eventually winning 7-0 to move four points off the top of the Premier League table.

The seventh win in a row, it was the kind of performance that showed why City remain favorites to win the title, ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea.

Meanwhile, Grealish has provided a reminder of why they are willing to part with a British record £100m for his services.

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By his own admission, it was not an easy start to life in Manchester after leaving Aston Villa in the summer. Things didn’t always seem to come off as easy as they did at his boyhood club but against Leeds, the splurge is back.

He scored City’s second goal and could have done more.

By the middle of the second half, Leeds resorted to kicking him so high in the air that they could only see him jumping again, collecting the ball, and hiding forward over and over again.

He has been a key part of City’s display that has been ranked among the best of Guardiola’s era and has proven beyond any doubt that he belongs at this level.

“He was exceptional,” Guardiola said excitedly after the match. “I don’t judge players for their goals. I want to see how they act and their decisions.

“Congratulations to the team, it was a good performance for us.

“We put in a good performance, the positive feedback in the stadium was fantastic today – it was sold out and the fans were amazing.

“We played a really good game. We lost five points to Leeds last season with the same players and we can’t forget that.

“When you get these results it is because they are individual [the players] amazing. “

It’s a sign that Grealish’s first four months at City wouldn’t have been a huge surprise had he been ruled out against Leeds.

It’s not that it was bad; More than he competes with Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus and any drop in level is amplified because others, usually, play well.

He was substituted early against Wolverhampton on Saturday, and at Watford a week ago Grealish may have feared the worst when Guardiola came to name his squad against Leeds, but he got another chance and took it.

Early in the two minutes he flew forward, impressing Luke Ayling with two steps before hitting a low shot at Ilan Mesler. Two minutes later he rebounded in a pass from De Bruyne on the edge of the penalty area and almost made it to the end of the second leg.

It’s the kind of thing Guardiola wants to see a lot of. His system can be very rigid, but Grealish has been reminded more than once that there is still freedom within the structure. The short message was to continue to do the things he did so well at Villa and Guardiola’s idea is not to stress the England midfielder’s life, but to make him in better areas more often than not.

It worked against Leeds and for large parts of the game – Marcelo Bielsa’s side could not cope.

It was a night of running and eye-catching touches, but Grealish’s best moment came in the 12th minute. City’s corner kick again ended at Mahrez’s feet and when the Algerian crossed into the penalty area, Grealish was there to head the ball from six yards to score his first league goal since August.

It was an attacking goal from a team without a striker.

By then the score was 1-0 after Foden scored City’s 500th Premier League goal under Guardiola in just 206 matches. There were five more before full-time from De Bruyne (2), Mahrez, John Stones and Nathan Ake, yet Leeds came out looking relieved it wasn’t 10.

Bielsa said afterwards that his team had “never played that badly in these four years”.

Only five points above the relegation positions, their safety this season is not guaranteed, and a rough night in Manchester will do nothing for their confidence ahead of back-to-back games against Arsenal and Liverpool.

While Pesla said “there is nothing to take away from the game”, there were plenty of positives for Guardiola.

He will, as always, value his team’s overall dominance more than any individual performance, but after all the questions about Grealish since his move, there will be quiet satisfaction in seeing him look at home as key gear in that familiar slick machine.

Back in the dressing room after the final whistle, Grealish took to Instagram to post a “perfect night in union” message.

It was hard to argue with his rating.


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