With the January transfer window rapidly closing, it appears that Aston Villa star Jack Grealish will be staying put for the time being, despite speculation over a move to Premier League Middlesbrough.
The Englishman had been rumoured last week to be nearing a shock transfer to Teesside, possibly as part of a deal to take Jordan Rhodes the other way.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) January 30, 2017
Grealish is a divisive figure at Villa Park, undoubtedly talented but perceived as unprofessional by some who believe his well-publicised off-field issues will see those gifts squandered.
His languid playing style does not help him in this regard; he is not an out-and-out winger who will make regular sprints for the byline, nor is he comfortable playing in a deeper central midfield role.
The position he covets, just off the striker, is not one ideally suited to Championship football, where the tempo is frenetic and space hard to come by.
However, to sell him at the tender age of 21 would be a mistake and one that could come back to bite Villa further down the line.
Whilst it is true that Grealish has not exactly set the world alight in England’s second tier, he has been far from the team’s worst performer in a campaign that sees the Midlanders sitting disappointingly down in 13th position after 27 matches.
In fact, the Solihull-born attacker has had a direct hand in seven Villa goals this season, a record bettered only by Jonathan Kodija (10) and Albert Adomah (8) in the current squad.
Grealish is the most technically gifted player that the club have produced in a long time, someone who has the necessary spark to produce game-changing moments even if, at present, he doesn’t do it on a consistent enough basis.
The superb winner he scored against Wigan Athletic in December was evidence of his talent; the one piece of skill that settled an otherwise drab encounter.
And whilst some may point to Grealish’s off-field problems as a reason to offload him, it is important to remember that he is not only a product of his generation, but of a culture of indiscipline that has infected Villa over a number of years.
That is not to excuse his behaviour, but hopefully once wider issues at the club are rectified it will result in a higher level of professionalism amongst the playing staff as a whole.
There is no arguing that the England under-21 international must improve certain aspects of his game; he is sometimes guilty of ‘over-playing’, can be negligent in his defensive duties and needs to be more clinical in front of goal.
These are all areas that can be worked on during training and fans will hope that under the guidance of Steve Bruce and his coaching staff, Grealish can finally flourish at Villa Park.