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Jack Grealish: Cream rises to the top, so will Man City's £100m man, says Paul Merson

"It's been hard for Jack Grealish, things haven't worked out for him at Man City yet. Sometimes the grass is not always greener. But he will be alright, the cream always rises to the top, always rises to the top," Paul Merson confident British-record signing will deliver


In his latest Sky Sports column, Paul Merson assesses Jack Grealish's difficult start at Man City, how a leaf can be taken out of Raheem Sterling's book when it comes to adjusting to life at the Etihad, and why £100m's worth of talent will come to the fore sooner rather than later...

'Grass not always greener'

I didn't think it would be a walk in the park for Jack Grealish at Manchester City, but it's been hard for him so far. We're talking about a player who whenever Aston Villa got the ball, they looked for him, it was like, 'give the ball to Jack'.

That isn't the case at City, it's pass and move, pass and move. Instead of passing the ball to Grealish, the full-backs at City pass it inside, that would never happen at Villa.

We've seen this before with lots of players.

Michael Ballack joined Chelsea after ripping it up at Bayern Munich, where he touched the ball a hundred times a game. Then he arrived at Stamford Bridge and wasn't the big fish in the small pond anymore, he saw the ball a lot less, and when he did get the ball he felt as though he had to do something special and started hitting glory balls, stuff he wouldn't usually do.

It's a bit like a golfer who hits a bogey on the first hole, they are under pressure to birdie the next one and end up chasing the game. Jack seems to be chasing the game every time I watch him play; he's always trying to do something special to prove why he was bought for £100m. It's been hard for him and things haven't worked out for him at City yet. Sometimes the grass is not always greener.

He was at a club, a big club in Aston Villa, he was the big fish and touched the ball as many times as he wanted to touch it. He's just not touching the ball as much at City, and that is the problem. Let's be honest, he's one of the best dribblers we've seen, he's a joy to watch, but we're not seeing that Jack Grealish at Manchester City because they don't play that way.

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Jack Grealish says life at Man City has been much more difficult than he expected and that he has so much more to give the club

It is hard adjusting to a new club, new surroundings, and a new style of play, I experienced that when I moved to Middlesbrough. I got bought for a lot of money, I think it was the biggest-ever transfer fee paid by a Championship club at the time, Grealish got bought for £100m, a lot more money. It's harder than people think, having to move and settle elsewhere.

It's easier playing for clubs with lower expectations, and I don't mean any disrespect to Aston Villa when I say that, they are a giant football club, but if they finished 10th in the Premier League who is moaning? No one's moaning. The expectation at Manchester City is massive.

If Grealish took on a full-back five times last season at Villa and beat them once, no one says a word. If he does that at City, he's under severe pressure of getting hooked sooner rather than later if he doesn't do something special quickly. But that is not the game at City, the game is pass and move, pass and move, it's simple football.

'It took Sterling time, it will take Grealish time'

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Pep Guardiola insists he is not concerned by Grealish's lack of goals since arriving at Manchester City

Grealish is a top player, he hasn't become a bad player overnight.

If you can only drive an automatic car and then you get in a manual and struggle, it doesn't mean you're a bad driver, it means you can't do what's required of you.

At the moment, Grealish is finding it hard to do what's required, he's chasing things and you can see he's desperately trying to produce something to convince everyone he's a decent player. He is a decent player, he's just got to keep it simple, and it will come.

Raheem Sterling has learned to keep it simple. How many times have we seen him arrive at the back post and tap the ball in from a few yards? People say 'Sterling couldn't miss', but it's not like he was pushing defenders out of the way to score, there is an art to getting in the right place.

Sterling took time to work that out but now he knows, and that is what Grealish has to do. The problem for Jack is that it's hard to get a run in the team to finesse these details, there are too many top players at City.

Can Grealish reinvent himself?

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I think it will be hard for Grealish to completely reinvent his game. He's played this way since he was six, probably. He's been at Villa's academy, he was a dribbler from the outset, and they rightly encouraged him to stick to his strengths and express himself.

When you're a kid, academies aren't going to make you change something you are good at because you're better off being a nine out of 10 for dribbling instead of a six out of 10 across the board. You've got to be special at something, and Grealish is special at dribbling, I don't know anybody like him, he does everything.

Now, all of a sudden, Grealish has got to pretty much change his game. People think that because City paid £100m for him he should be able to adapt straight away, but no, it doesn't work like that. He's a top-drawer player but it will take time to make those tweaks.

He is very young still, it's not like he is 29 or 30, and has time on his side to adjust to the patterns of play at City.

You have to accept that when you're a £100m player your games are going to be analysed at the highest level every single week, the press want something to write about. When he rips it up it's expected because he cost £100m, when he doesn't, questions are asked why a player with a £100m price tag isn't performing, he can't win.

'Cream always rises to the top'

Jack Grealish celebrates putting Man City 2-0 up
Image: Grealish celebrates scoring for Man City

If Grealish got bought for £100m to do the job he did at Villa there wouldn't be a problem, but things are very different at Manchester City, the playing styles are chalk and cheese.

I dread to think how many man-of-the-match awards he picked up at Villa. He could play as well as he did at Villa and still not even look like getting man of the match at City, all the other players do special stuff at the same time. How many teams in the world have a full-back like Joao Cancelo capable of deciding games?

Grealish has probably had games where he's come off the pitch thinking he'd played well but everybody is looking for him to kick on because of his price tag.

Make no mistake about it, if Grealish turns up at the end of the season and wins City the Champions League, he will be the best signing ever. They brought him in to be the difference in different games. Grealish will be alright, the cream always rises to the top, always rises to the top.

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