Jack Grealish: Aston Villa have stronger squad than before sale of England midfielder, says Dean Smith

Jack Grealish joined Premier League champions Manchester City on a six-year contract for a British record £100m earlier this month; Villa have signed Leon Bailey, Danny Ings, Emi Buendia, Ashley Young and Axel Tuanzebe this summer

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Aston Villa boss Dean Smith says his squad has been strengthened this summer even with the departure of Jack Grealish, but wouldn't be drawn into talks of a potential move for Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse

Aston Villa have a stronger squad than before the sale of captain and England midfielder Jack Grealish to Manchester City, according to head coach Dean Smith.

Grealish, 25, joined the Premier League champions on a six-year contract for a British record £100m earlier this month, while Leon Bailey, Danny Ings, Emi Buendia, Ashley Young and Axel Tuanzebe have all arrived at Villa Park during the summer transfer window.

"It was important that we strengthened the squad depth this season," said Smith, whose side finished 11th in the Premier League last term.

"We felt we had an 11 that could compete against anybody including the top teams - now we've got more variation, more adaptability, and more depth and that's really important.

Buendia
Image: Emi Buendia joined from Norwich for a club-record transfer fee

"Obviously Jack going was a big loss. We wanted to keep him, but we would have added more creativity - and have added more creativity with Buendia - whether Jack stayed or not. I think we're in a good place."

Grealish scored seven goals in 27 appearances in all competitions for Villa last season before going on to feature for Gareth Southgate's England at Euro 2020.

Asked if there is a potential new talisman within the squad following the departure of the boyhood Villa fan, Smith said he was more interested in having a group of influential players rather than one.

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"I think we've got two or three who can come and do that," he said.

"I wanted to build a better team if Jack left and I feel we can do that. There was an over-reliance at times, an unconscious over-reliance on Jack.

"I think we've moved away from that now. Only time will tell if that's a good thing but we believe in the team we've got and the squad we've got, and what we have to do now is prove it on the football pitch."

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