Jack Grealish highlights Pep Guardiola & Man City dilemma with England display vs Germany

The Manchester City superstar changed the course of the proceedings in Munich with a performance some may have forgotten he’s capable of.

He may have only been on the pitch for 18 minutes on Tuesday night, but Jack Grealish provided a timely reminder to Manchester City and England fans of just what he’s capable of.

Gareth Southgate, a man so often adverse to operating with the slick-haired winger, threw Grealish on as the Three Lions were desperately searching for a goal and looked on the verge of losing their opening two Nations League group games.

But cutting in from the left wing, City’s No.10 flitted through the Germany midfield and caused havoc against a defence which had previously looked so comfortable.

After a few flashes of brilliance and slaloming dribbles in behind the back four, Grealish ultimately produced the game-changing moment Southgate had hoped for, when his run caused a breach in the German backline and within seconds Harry Kane had been tripped inside the box.

Grealish started the attack which resulted in England’s penalty. Credit: Getty.

Controversy or no, the Tottenham Hotspur striker stepped up and fired the ball past Manuel Neuer from the spot to give England a point they were fortuitous to earn.

But at the heart of it all was Grealish. This is the man that City deemed worthy of a £100m outlay last summer, a player capable of strolling past the most resilient of defenders, creating chances at will and, in the most simplest sense, entertaining.

This Grealish looks capable of winning almost any match single handedly, one brimming with confidence and making it almost look easy.

Grealish’s ‘21/22 struggles

Yet this isn’t the winger City fans saw on a weekly basis in 2021/22. Even if his numbers weren’t as bad as popular opinion would have you believe, Grealish failed to replicate in Manchester sky blue what habitually he showed in claret and blue the season prior.

Grealish found it difficult to dominate games in 2021/22. Credit: Getty.

That he failed to feature at all in City’s final league game, the most important of the season against his boyhood Aston Villa, showed what Pep Guardiola truly thought of the 26-year-old’s place in his squad.

Rarely last season were there virtuoso displays and too often he slowed City attacks down rather than enhancing them.

Admittedly, there was always going to be a period of adjustment, something Guardiola himself said on numerous occasions, but even he must have been a tad underwhelmed by Grealish’s first season at the Etihad.

So how does Guardiola get English football’s most expensive signing to perform at the level he demonstrated in Munich? How can he harness that unique Grealishness?

Perhaps Tuesday’s fixture provided the answer.

Now Grealish has to find a way of holding down a regular spot in the England team. Credit: Getty.

Replicating Grealish’s Villa form at City

There was a subtle but significant difference to how Grealish performed against Germany, compared to his displays for City.

Firstly, he operated more centrally and there was no desire for him to hug the touchline as Guardiola so often asks of his wide players. It was the Grealish of Villa, drifting wherever he felt was best, looking to create the type of chances he wanted, rather than what he had necessarily been instructed to do.

There was even a sense of giving Grealish the ball to see which trick he could conjure next, which new way would he find to maraude forward?

But things are so different at City, where he’s one equally sized and equally important cog in the most fluently efficient machine English football has ever seen.

For all its undeniable perks and magnificence, City’s system does stifle individuality, something Grealish has more of than any player in the Premier League.

This is now the dilemma for Guardiola - can the master tactician find a way to harness that remarkable je ne sais quoi of Grealish while maintaining the coherency his team need to perform at such a ruthlessly consistent standard?

If so, with Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland in convoy, Guardiola could take this special team to a whole new level.