Jack Grealish's role in Gareth Southgate's England side is a huge talking point right now, but analyse the key stats and the results are beyond debate.
SPORTbible broke down the Premier League data since the start of the 2019/20 season putting Grealish head-to-head with his rival attack-minded English midfielders: Mason Mount, James Maddison, Phil Foden and Ross Barkley. The outcome is eye-opening.
Goals: Grealish's 12 Premier League goals make him the only England central midfielder on double figures since the start of 2019/20. Mount has eight goals (having played a game more than Grealish), Maddison and Foden are both on seven, while Barkley is on three. Decisive.
9 - Jack Grealish has been directly involved in nine goals in the Premier League season (four goals and five assists) - only Spurs pair Harry Kane (15) and Son Heung-min (10) have had a hand in more. Productivity. pic.twitter.com/VRh8aovJGE- OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 8, 2020
Assists: Again, Grealish is out in front on double figures. Aston Villa's ace has 11 assists since the beginning of 2019/20 (five coming this season), Mount has six, Barkley has five, Maddison has three, Foden has two. For comparison, Grealish got three in one match against champions Liverpool in October.
Fouls won: Not even close. Teams couldn't handle Grealish last season, so just fouled him instead: his 167 fouls won is a single-season Premier League record. The top 50 most fouled players of 2019/20 also featured Maddison (88 fouls won) and Mount (38).
This season, guess who leads the Premier League overall? Right. It's Grealish with 25 fouls earned, while Maddison is on nine, the closest to him of this chasing pack.
Jack Grealish won more fouls (167) during the 2019/20 Premier League season than has ever been previously recorded in a single campaign in the competition.- Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 26, 2020
The Yin to Daniele De Rossi's Yang. :warning: pic.twitter.com/zKSaH6KY44
Dribbling: Adama Traore is the undisputed dribble king with 184 last season - but Grealish finished inside the Premier League top 10 with a still strong 73. Maddison with 51 take-ons completed was closest to him.
This season, Grealish is higher again with 18 completed dribbles putting him joint fourth - while Foden is next on 12. Mount, Maddison and Barkley do not make this season's top 50 as yet.
Jack Grealish - Footballing Elegance- Lyés (@Lyes_Messi10) November 10, 2020
Big chances created: Only Kevin De Bruyne (136) created more chances than Grealish (91) in England's top flight last season. In terms of what the Premier League assess as 'big chances created' from the start of the 2019/20 season to today, Grealish has 14, Mount has 10, Maddison has eight, Barkley has four, while Foden is on three.
Tackles and interceptions: Grealish leads on every attacking statistic, so a counterargument is that his England competitors are being asked to do more defensively. Partly true. Maddison leads the way on tackles (64), then Mount (52) but Grealish has a still respectable total (39), ahead of Barkley and Foden (both 18).
Also, in the high-press era when an interception is worth more than a tackle (or so Pep Guardiola tells us) Grealish leads the way. He has 26 interceptions since summer 2019, more than Mount (24), Maddison (10), Barkley (10) or Foden (nine). Clearly he's not shirking his defensive responsibilities.
Passing: So, so close... But Grealish wins. His 1,619 passes are just above Maddison (1,611) and Mount (1,553), despite the Chelsea man having made one appearance more than Grealish. Barkley (835) and Foden (667) are admittedly held back by a comparative lack of game time.
Winner: If this was a fight, the referee would have stopped this one-sided pasting ages ago. It's hard to find a category where the 25-year-old Grealish does not lead his England rivals who play a similar role.
Some might argue that he's played more minutes than many of his counterparts. But firstly, it's part of a footballer's job to make sure they are good enough to be on the pitch. Secondly, Grealish has been playing for Aston Villa - who scraped into 17th last season - whereas his rivals have spent the vast majority of their playing time at clubs who finished in last term's top five.
So scoring opportunities and possession statistics are all lower at Villa. But somehow Grealish leads on everything from goals and assists to passes and interceptions. Over to you, Gareth.
Do you think Jack Grealish should be an automatic starter for England? Let us know in the comments.
All imagery: PA Images
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