Ian Ladyman wonders whether Jack Grealish has lost some of his natural flair as a result of working under Pep Guardiola.
The 28-year-old winger joined Man City from Aston Villa for £100million in 2021 and after a difficult debut season, he played a crucial role as Guardiola’s side won the Treble in 2022-23.
However, apart from an impressive performance during City’s 3-0 win over Man United last month, Grealish has struggled to replicate that form, with just two assists and no goals in thirteen games in all competitions.
Grealish – who failed to influence England’s disappointing 1-1 draw with North Macedonia this week – also faces the challenge of competing with summer signing Jeremy Doku for a position on the left wing.
And Mailsport football editor Ladyman discussed the issue of his form with former Premier League winner Chris Sutton Mail Sport’s It all begins podcast and suggested a reason for his recent struggles.
Ian Ladyman has wondered whether Jack Grealish has lost some of his flair working with Pep Guardiola
Ladyman said it appears Grealish is ‘playing on instruction’ and has lost ‘a little bit of spice’
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“Sideways, back, he’s lost a little bit, like Jack,” he said. ‘And we need him to get it back so we can see the Grealish we love, don’t we?
‘I still have all the confidence in the world in him, but what really interests me about this situation is that I think it is a Pep Guardiola matter.
‘I think he plays under instruction. I think he plays to keep the ball, he plays to make mistakes.
‘And as a football fan, as a football observer, as a journalist, I have found it interesting for twenty years. I find it fascinating. That’s all.’
Sutton then accused Ladyman of blaming Guardiola for Grealish’s disappointing displays.
Ladyman denied this, adding: ‘I’m really not. What I’m trying to say is that Pep likes to micro-manage players. He literally walks onto a training ground and gets them into position.
Grealish played a crucial role as Guardiola’s side romped home to an historic Treble last season
However, he has struggled with his form in recent months but Ladyman supported him to recover
‘And I think this is a lot do with the Grealish conundrum at the moment. I think he’s been asked to play a certain way and I think that’s taken some of that natural instinctive flair out of his mentality for the time being.
“I think it’s a problem that will be solved. City won’t even see it as a problem because they win games and I have no idea if Jack Grealish sees it as a problem.
‘He will probably want to increase his goals and assists. He is a natural attacking wide player whose natural instinct has always been to take players on, set the name, cross the ball, make things happen and he plays in a different way.
‘I find it interesting, it’s that simple. Try not to make it sound like I’m trying to drive somehow wedge between Grealish and Pep. I am not.’