Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Jack is back, central

There have been instances towards the end of last season where the shackles of the instructions for Jack Grealish to stick to the touchline had been loosened a bit by manager Pep Guardiola. However, more significant hints are surfacing in this week’s match against Young Boys in the Champions League.

Grealish is a player who thrives in a free role, akin to what he had at Aston Villa. This is a role he has been deprived of in his Manchester City career.

Figure 1.1 - Mateo Kovacic passes to Jack Grealish.
Figure 1.2 - Jack Grealish turns, takes the ball to the penalty area, and then cuts back a pass to Rico Lewis.

This is a rare sight to see Grealish in a pocket like this, but it suits the way he thinks. Most players would fizz it across goal, but his decisions are often delayed. Most players wouldn’t find that cut-back option to Rico Lewis.

Figure 2.1 - Jack Grealish receives the ball in the left half-space, inverted from the left-wing.
Figure 2.2 - Jack Grealish takes a large first touch away from the space.
Figure 2.3 - Jack Grealish quickly cuts inside.

Grealish will often only take three to four touches before looking for a pass. When he receives the ball on the wing, on the touchline, he’ll draw the right-back and a midfielder to him. That midfielder will often block off the progressive pass, so he will play the ball back.

Because he receives this ball in the half-space, central, his fourth touch is positive with no one blocking off the progressive pass. He has the vision to pick out that switch to Phil Foden.

He wears the #10 shirt and acts like one.

Figure 2.4 - Jack Grealish switches play on the ground to Phil Foden for the assist.
Figure 3.1 - Jack Grealish carries the ball in the left half-space.
Figure 3.2 - Jack Grealish draws in three defenders then passes to the wide open wing.
Figure 3.3

And then he carries the ball. Carrying the ball draws out defenders, opening space elsewhere.

Jack Grealish is a more controlled and polished version of Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes. All three drive at opponents, but Grealish has that extra passing quality and extra composure in tight spaces. He knows how Manchester City works, where everyone will be, so he will have an easier time anticipating when that switch will be on or when a through ball will work.

Pep Guardiola, when asked if Jack Grealish can play centrally like he did in the 2nd half:

“He can do it. I think Jack would play there in that position, more free, but at the same time, defensively, not because he has not the heart or spirit to defend, because he’s amazing how he helps us. But he can play there, yeah, he can play.”

Pep Guardiola on the competition at left-wing between Grealish and Jérémy Doku:

I want Jack [Grealish] angry, and Jérémy [Doku] to be angry after he didn’t play the last two games. This is the way, to maintain consistency at that level. But Jack is back; the way he played in Old Trafford, to give us more composure, more pausa, it was decisive.

Phil Foden used to be the one to rotate at left-wing with Grealish, but Foden is now more useful inside or at right-wing. Jérémy Doku’s addition is great because he can allow Foden and Grealish to play elsewhere. Both can play at the same time, they can rotate with each other to provide rest. More and more depth in versatility has been added because all can play in several different positions.

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