Jack Grealish was the best player on the pitch when Aston Villa drew 2-2 at Old Trafford last weekend. No-one else on either side could have scored that beautiful goal; very few players in the Premier League could have. Reports of his current buyout clause range from £30million to £70million. But just how much is Grealish worth?

As he picked the ball up on the left of the area, he already knew what he was going to do. His opponent Andreas Pereira had no idea. Earlier in the game – in a similar position – Grealish went to the byline and pulled the ball back with his left foot and on another occasion played a slide rule pass to his overlapping fullback.

A cunningly laid trap or fateful coincidence? What came before made little difference to the majesty of the goal Grealish was about to score, but was vital in creating the doubt that enabled him to do so.

The Villa midfielder didn’t look at the ball until the final point of contact – the whipped shot into the postage stamp located at the corner of post and bar. Before then he took three almost imperceptible touches, focusing his gaze not on the ball but avidly on Pereira’s feet, knowing the Brazilian would make the first move. And at the merest hint of motion from the midfielder towards the byline, Grealish made his own move, cutting in on his right foot to score one of the memorable Old Trafford goals, in front of the Stretford End.

Jack the lad – revitalised and much improved – is back.

First impressions are hard to shake, particularly when they are entrenched through a series of tabloid news stories that support the initial suspicion. But don’t be fooled by the slicked back hair, fake tan and low-slung socks that remain: this is a very different Grealish to the one relegated from the Premier League in 2016.

He’s still the cocky, brash, well-preened Brummie icon. But now, instead of using his sculpted calves to strut the length of Broad Street, he’s using them to glide past defenders and put them on their arses, like a Chris Waddle of old or a George Best of older.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was predictably asked about rumours linking the 24-year-old with a move to United post-game and gave the stock manager response of not being able to “talk too much about other teams’ players”, while simultaneously eulogising over him. Pep Guardiola has described him as “exceptional”, while everyone else remains bemused by his exclusion from the latest England squads. Speculation linking him with a move away will roll on in line with the exponential improvement in the maturity and calibre of his performances.

Villa use him in a roaming role, starting from the left. It’s not his most effective position or the one he wants to be playing, but one that utilises his talents in the way that serves Dean Smith’s side best: a team that lacks creativity needs their most inventive asset as close to goal as possible. But despite the position he plays for Villa, his aesthetics and the perception they’ve created, he’s much less a show pony than a conductor.

He’s not quite a Jorginho or Fabinho, but still the player capable of controlling the speed and direction of the football his team plays. A Big Six side would likely use him as a number eight, a position from which he could use his dribbling expertise to build attacks from deep and not necessarily deliver the final ball, but more often the pass before that killer blow.

To Villa, the question of how much Grealish is worth and how much Premier League football is worth are one and the same. With him they sit 15th in the table, one point above the relegation zone. Without his three goals and four assists – which if anything belittles the worth of his all-round game – they would be level on points with Norwich in 19th.

Letting him go in January would be tantamount to football treason. He’s more Villa than Harry Kane is Spurs or Trent Alexander-Arnold is Liverpool. Grealish is the lifeblood of his football club, and he – along with the fans – will fear what would happen should he up sticks and follow the lure of Champions League football – where his talents belong.

Tottenham have come closest to luring Grealish away, with the man himself admitting his head had been turned in the summer of 2018 with an offer on the table from Spurs. But when the north London side were unwilling to increase their £25million offer to £32million, the deal fell through and Grealish remained at his boyhood club.

If Villa now offered Grealish to any club with the means to spend £32million on the Birmingham-born midfielder, he’d be gone before you could say “Peaky Blinders”. He’s a ready-made leader with extraordinary talent, now without the can he do it in the Premier League? caveat or previously lingering doubts over his commitment to his profession. This is a footballer capable of more, but understandably tied to the club and community that have given him so much. He won’t be there forever, Villans, so just enjoy him while you can.

Oh sorry, what’s he worth? F*** knows…a lot.

Will Ford

 

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Chris Sutton thinks that Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish would be good signing for Arsenal after his good start to the Premier League season.

Grealish has three goals and four assists in 12 Premier League starts this campaign, including a wonderful strike in Villa’s 2-2 draw against Manchester United at the weekend.

And Sutton thinks the top teams in the Premier League will be sitting up and taking notice of his start to the season with speculation now linking him with United.

“Look, I think people will be scrutinising him closely now,” Sutton told the Metro.

“Last season he was very good in the Championship. I actually think the penny has dropped with him where a couple of seasons ago it was fair to say he was ‘Jack the Lad’ as such.

“You know, he’s captain of Villa now, he’s knuckled down as such. There was always that question mark over him where he was very, very talented on the ball but did he have the application and the work rate?

“He’s shown that this season and I think – obviously it was a brilliant goal the other day at United – eyes were being opened anyway with him and I do think that it’s one of those where if he carries on like he is and does it for a longer period then it’s only a matter of time because he’s always had the talent. Now we’re seeing the application week in week out.

“Which of the top-six teams would he fit into? I suppose it’s a difficult one when you think of the players City have at their disposal, the Silvas, De Bruyne… Arsenal would be the one where you think there’s a vacancy. Tottenham, Dele Alli seems to be having a resurgence.

“I think in many respects with Grealish he just needs to do it for a bit longer and, of course, Gareth Southgate must be watching him and scrutinising him closely. The disadvantage which he has on the likes of James Maddison is that James Maddison has done it for a longer period of time in the Premier League but there’s nothing you can do except sort of say with Grealish is praise him this season.”

 

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Aston Villa manager Dean Smith believes John Terry’s mentality as a “serial winner” with Chelsea is having a galvanising effect on his players.

Terry spent 20 years at Chelsea before joining Villa, initially as a player in 2017 for a season before switching to coaching, helping the club return to the Premier League under Smith.

During a glorious career with the Blues, Terry won the Champions League, Europa League, five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the League Cup three times.

For the first time since leaving Chelsea, Terry returns to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night on the opposing side, plotting to help Villa boss Smith as his assistant head coach.

“He’ll be excited for it,” said Smith. “He always said he would never go back and play against them, and I’m certainly not going to pick him!

“I’m sure he will get an unbelievable reception from their supporters, and rightly so, after the playing career he had at that football club, and his ties he has.

“He’ll be looking forward to going back, and I’m sure it will be a little bit different for him, but his mind has been solely on helping myself and the rest of my coaching team to try and beat the club he loves.”

Smith believes Terry has had a significant impact with Villa during his time at the club to date.

“He’s very important and I love working with him,” said Smith. “He’s brought something different to our coaching set-up, with his knowledge, his experiences.

“He’s lifted the Premier League title enough times, as well as the FA Cup and the League Cup. He was a serial winner for Chelsea, so he knows how to win things and that mentality can rub off on people.

“I also feel he’s come into his own with us getting promoted into the Premier League. He’s getting better and better as a coach.

“I’ve championed him for a long time, saying he will eventually be a top manager. At the moment he’s very keen to keep learning and making a major contribution to Aston Villa, certainly on the coaching pitches.”

 

 

Smith is naturally hoping Terry will continue to learn for as long as possible before making the inevitable move into management.

“We’ve a good enough and an open enough relationship for him to come to me at any time,” added Smith.

“I don’t expect it in the meantime because he’s enjoying the job so much at the moment, and the important thing is he feels he’s still learning as well.

“He has a thirst for learning, a real growth mindset, which I really like to see in people. He is always asking me questions about why I make certain decisions.”

Smith will be without winger Anwar El Ghazi for the game at Chelsea due to a knee injury sustained in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United but midfielder Jota returns after a two-month absence following hernia surgery.

 

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Mauricio Pochettino admits he is “open to listen to projects” amid speculation linking him with a number of roles.

The Argentinian was sacked almost a fortnight ago after five years in the job following Spurs’ slump in form, before being swiftly replaced by Jose Mourinho.

Pochettino took the north London club to the Champions League final last season, where they were beaten by Liverpool in Madrid.

The 47-year-old has since been linked with Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League while elsewhere in Europe he has been reportedly interesting Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Pochettino told Fox Sports Argentina: “There are a lot of clubs and attractive projects for me to take on.

“At my age I don’t need a lot of time to recover. I am open to listen to projects put before me.”

A report on Monday poured cold water on links with United and Arsenal by suggesting Pochettino would lose his £12.5million pay-off from Tottenham if he accepts another Premier League role this campaign.

 

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Steve Bruce has picked out the “excellent” Newcastle duo of Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron as they grabbed a 2-2 draw against Manchester City.

Jetro Willems cancelled out Raheem Sterling’s 15th goal of the season but Kevin De Bruyne thought he had won it with a fine 82nd-minute strike.

But Jonjo Shelvey curled home a brilliant 87th-minute equaliser which, coupled with Martin Dubravka’s stoppage-time save from Sterling, ensured the game finished level.

And Bruce was full of praise for two of his front three, he said: “Allan and Almiron today were excellent in their work. You’ve seen three quality goals and we’ve got two of them.”

Asked about his side’s performance, Bruce added: “When you take on one of the big boys it’s always nice to get something from it.

“Their attitude and effort and endeavour in terms of their workrate and to keep getting after the ball, it’s manful in terms of how they do it.”

When asked if the atmosphere at St James’ Park was a bit flat, Bruce continued: “It would have been nice to get some of the ball to give them something to shout about!

“They’ve witnessed their team rolling up their sleeves and showing a bit of determination. The fans were superb at the end.”

 

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Roy Hodgson is happy with Crystal Palace’s recent performances and hoping they can soon turn that into winning points again.

The Eagles have not tasted success in the Premier League since October 5 when they struck late in a 2-1 victory at West Ham.

While the south Londoners are on a five-match streak without a win, the mitigating factors are the level of opposition they have faced which includes Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester, Chelsea and Liverpool.

On Saturday, Hodgson’s side will travel to Burnley looking to arrest a slide down the table from sixth to 13th.

“I don’t think you should confuse form with results,” he said. “I don’t know we are in mixed form. Our form hasn’t particularly dipped from the Man City game through to the Liverpool game.

“We have had five tough fixtures and I don’t think we’ve performed badly in any of them, but of course because we’ve been playing the top sides we’ve been unable to get many points.

“But we’ve been close to doing so on many occasions so I would not equate form and results. I don’t think our form is bad, but our results have been bad.

“We did fear we might be in for that type of period when we looked at the fixture list and we were playing the top five teams in the country one after another.”

 

 

Sean Dyche’s Burnley, on the other hand, are three points ahead of Palace and have triumphed 3-0 in their last two games.

Hodgson added: “We have every respect for them. We know they are a difficult nut to crack at all times and we have to be ready for the type of game it will be.”

This is the start of a busy schedule for all teams in the Premier League and Palace will play seven times between now and the end of the year.

It means the former England manager will have to consider rotation during a hectic period of the season.

“It’s a time when your squad is really tested,” Hodgson said. “You really need everybody in good form, physical condition and in good mental condition.

“It’s unrealistic to expect 11 players to carry out every 90 minutes you’re going to play, so it’s important everyone’s ready.”

The Palace boss confirmed he would be without Joel Ward for Saturday’s trip to Turf Moor after the defender suffered a serious knee injury in the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool last weekend.

 

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Unai Emery has hits back at rumours that he has lost the backing of the Arsenal dressing room by insisting they still believe in him.

The pressure on the Spaniard ramped up over the weekend as the Gunners were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Southampton, with Alexandre Lacazette rescuing a point for Arsenal late on.

The Gunners are now six matches without a win in all competitions and sit eighth in the Premier League standings.

Asked in his pre-match press conference whether the Arsenal players still believed in him, Emery responded: “Yes of course. They show that.

“As a coach each moment in my career is difficult. This is a very good but very hard job. When you are winning you feel the support for everybody. I believe in us, I believe in the players. I know I am going to work very hard to come back to the performance.

“I am looking forward to playing tomorrow. The good moment, the bad moment the most important for me is to show my work. Our confidence depends a lot on how we can feel in our stadium with our supporters.

“Teams are coming here playing fearless. We need to be strong and together. We need to show our supporters our capacity and skills.”

 

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Arsenal legend Paul Merson explans why his former club should approach Mauricio Pochettino to replace under-fire manager Unai Emery.

Arsenal have won just four of their 13 Premier League games this season, leading many to question Emery’s position at the Emirates.

Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw by 19th-place Southampton at home on Saturday afternoon, with the Gunners fans booing at the final whistle.

A host of some of Europe’s top bosses – including Max Allegri and former Gunner Mikel Arteta – have been linked with a move to north London, and Pochettino is the latest man to be tipped to succeed Emery, having been sacked by rivals Tottenham last week.

The Argentine took Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final and oversaw four successive top-four finishes in the Premier League, establishing himself as one of the best young coaches in England.

And despite his past ties with Arsenal’s fiercest rivals, Merson believes ‘top manager’ Pochettino is the ideal man to take over, partly because Arsenal would not need to fork out any money for compensation.

“Arsenal should go for Mauricio Pochettino,” the former Arsenal midfielder told Sky Sports. “He’s not won anything, but he improved Tottenham over five years, tenfold. He’s a top manager and he is about at the moment.

“I know he managed at Tottenham, but George Graham had been at Arsenal when he went the other way. You’ve got to get past that sort of stuff. These top managers don’t come along too often, where you don’t even have to pay anything for them.

“Can I see it happening? No. Should it happen? Yes. But it won’t happen. The days of the rivalry between Arsenal and Tottenham are not what they were. When I was growing up, it was the big football match.

“For some of these players, that’s no longer the case. It’s probably Chelsea or Manchester City or Liverpool. It’s not the highlighted fixture anymore as there’s not a lot of home-grown players in the teams.

“You don’t have to pay compensation for him, and if you are going to bring someone in, he’s got to be better than the manager you’ve got.”

 

 

Merson is desperate to see a significant change made in the Arsenal dugout but thinks Emery will ultimately be granted an extended stay of execution, even if another loss is posted at Norwich on Sunday.

“I still see Emery being there for a while. They had a chance to get rid of him before the international break,” he added.

“They looked at the fixtures and saw Southampton at home, Norwich away. They thought they would win both and everything would be rosy in the garden again. But they were fortunate to draw with Southampton with some of the chances they had, and they’d recently lost 9-0.

“Their confidence was low, but they never looked like they would be on to a hiding. There wasn’t too much respect and they came and thought they had a chance.

“I’m a great believer in if you keep doing the same things, you get the same results. Something needs to change. The players are not that good, but at the same time, results have to be better than what they are.

“If you’re a football manager and you arrive at a club, the team must improve, and the results have to improve. If they don’t then you won’t be in the job for long. That was a fact when I was playing, and it will be a fact in 30 years’ time.

“It’s worrying times, and with Norwich away this weekend, I think Emery will do well to get on the coach if they don’t win that game.”

Before their trip to Carrow Road this weekend, Arsenal host Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League on Thursday, where a win will be enough to book their spot in the last 32.

 

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Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is not interested in “bargain” bids for the Premier League club and remains fully involved at Stamford Bridge, according to chairman Bruce Buck.

The Russian billionaire is not believed to have attended a home match since the spring of 2018, having taken Israeli citizenship after encountering visa renewal issues in the UK.

Plans for a new 60,000-seat stadium were shelved around the same time, but Buck insists Abramovich has no intention to offload the club.

“So far as I know, absolutely not; to the contrary. I have never heard a word from Mr Abramovich: ‘Let’s get this ready for a sale,’ or something,” Buck told the Guardian.

“Because of the political situation, there are people who think they might want to buy Chelsea Football Club at a bargain. We do get enquiries and we really have nothing to say to these people.

“In terms of being involved, in looking at new players, talking about whether to extend players’ contracts, do we buy this player, do we sell this player, (Abramovich) was always intimately involved in that from day one and is just as intimately involved now.

“He talks to Marina (Granovskaia) – the board member who supervises the football operation – several times a day, every day. Marina has been doing that for seven or eight years; that hasn’t let up or changed at all.”

 

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Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has said that his teammates have to ask serious questions about their own commitment to the cause following Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Southampton.

The Gunners needed a stoppage-time Alexandre Lacazette equaliser to earn a 2-2 draw at home to the Saintsin the Premier League following another poor performance which could have ended in defeat.

The pressure continues to mount on head coach Unai Emery, who has now overseen just two league wins from the last 11 games.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men were unfortunate not to leave the Emirates Stadium with their first away win at Arsenal since 1987 as Danny Ings and James Ward-Prowse – who tapped home after having his penalty saved – had twice given them the lead.

 

 

But Lacazette’s brace, including a last-gasp leveller, ensured the hosts at least ended the afternoon with a share of the spoils – with Aubameyang conceding things need to improve in the coming weeks.

“Everybody is disappointed today, the fans and the players,” he said. “It didn’t work today. It’s not a good result for us. Obviously we’re playing at home and we have to win games at home.

“We have to keep fighting and keep trying to sort it out. I think everybody has to try to ask themselves what they can change, what they can give more of.

“Everybody has to do this, me first. I will try to work hard and to get back to winning ways.”

Rarely is a stoppage-time goal to rescue a result met with such indifference by players and supporters, but Emery admitted afterwards a draw was not good enough.

The fans clearly agreed as they jeered en masse at the final whistle, as Aubameyang revealed the players were equally as frustrated.

“I don’t know but obviously everyone is disappointed, the fans and us as well,” he replied when asked about how the players respond to being booed off.

“When we are playing, we are the first to be disappointed when it doesn’t work. We will try to keep fighting. I think we have the quality to come back and we have to fight.”

Arsenal return to action on Thursday when they face Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League.

 

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