Jack Grealish: Aston Villa manager Dean Smith calls for better protection for 'targeted' talisman
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Last Updated: 04/12/19 9:56pm
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has called on Premier League referees to help protect his "targeted" captain Jack Grealish.
The 24-year-old has been fouled 53 times this season, the most of any player in the Premier League, and was on the receiving end of multiple tackles during Sunday's 2-2 draw at Manchester United.
Grealish has already missed two league games in this campaign after suffering a calf injury during their 3-0 defeat at Manchester City in October.
Asked whether he would like to see Grealish given more protection, ahead of Villa's visit to Chelsea on Wednesday, Smith said: "I certainly would.
"There was a bit of a tag team on him [at Old Trafford]. When somebody gets targeted then they certainly need a lot more protection.
"You are going to target top players, and he is getting targeted.
"I expected him to be the most fouled. He protects the ball so well, his balance is exceptional, he is a great ball carrier, and he does give defenders problems.
"It seems to be they want to foul him around the halfway line before he gets any further. We certainly got four or five of them at Old Trafford in the first half an hour.
"If you watch the last few games he has played for us, you can see he has been at a very high level. Teams will try to stop that.
"If they foul him further up the pitch then we've got great set-piece routines, and great set-piece takers. It gives us more of a chance to go and get a goal."
Grealish, who was attacked by a supporter during a Championship match against rivals Birmingham, has received praise from his manager for not reacting to being a target.
"He gets whacked all the time but just gets on with it. I think he sees it as a prize that they want to kick him," Smith said.
"He got chinned by a Blues fan and that didn't seem to bother him either.
"I know he played Gaelic football growing up as a kid, and it's a tough sport. He probably had a few whacks and he's learned how to deal with it."
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