The Telegraph report that Tottenham are set to test Aston Villa's resolve on their stance that midfielder Jack Grealish is not for sale, despite the club struggling with financial issues after failing to win promotion from the Championship.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy believes he can acquire Grealish for as little as £15 million, although Villa persist with a £40 million valuation for their prized asset.
Which Premier League club is Jack Grealish best suited for? Read RealSport's analysis HERE.
Mauricio Pochettino is a keen admirer of the 22-year-old, and he's certainly a player that fits his profile for new arrivals, given his track record in developing young English talent.
With Spurs attempting to improve on their third-placed finish in the Premier League and begin making an assault on major honours, is this a signing that will see them take the next step?
Jack Grealish's season by numbers
Jack Grealish isn't an established name amongst football's elite, but he was Aston Villa's best player in their efforts to return to the Premier League and contributed to their campaign with three goals and five assists.
By nature, Grealish is an attacking midfield playmaker typically situated behind the striker, having played 33 games their for Villa this season, but he's capable, too, of playing on the flanks, though he only appeared once as a left winger this season.
Jack Grealish in the 2017/18 Championship:
- 27 appearances
- 64 successful take-ons
- 47 chances created
- 42 key passes
- 85% pass completion
- 5 assists
- 3 goals
As statistics demonstrate, Grealish was Villa's key player, one of the most influential men on the pitch, denoted by the fact that he created the second-most chances of any Villa player and the second-most assists, despite missing 15 games at the start of the season due to kidney problems.
The best backup
It's long been argued that Spurs have one of the best starting XIs in the Premier League, but it's their depth that lets them down, having to bring on players like Moussa Sissoko in the hope that he can change a game.
It's a desperate situation when Sissoko is your go-to game changer off the bench.
In this sense, therefore, Tottenham should be open to the prospect of Jack Grealish arriving in North London, given that he provides a much better option off the bench. A comparison* between Grealish, Sissoko, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela is highly revealing.
|Jack Grealish||Christian Eriksen||Moussa Sissoko||Erik Lamela|
*All statistics are per game.
For example, Grealish is a forward-thinking attacking player, unafraid to take risks, demonstrated by the fact that he attempted more key passes per game (1.68) than Sissoko (0.59) and Lamela (0.84).
He also successfully completed more take-ons (2.56) than any other player, as well as attempting more forward passes (24.92) than both Sissoko (7.73) and Lamela (13.65). What this shows, therefore, is that Grealish frequently gets his head up to find a teammate in a better position, looking to create chances.
To have this come off the bench instead of Sissoko or Lamela is far more appealing, especially when Spurs are a goal down and chasing a game. It's a significantly more attractive prospect than Sissoko, who inspires an inevitable sense of nothing ever happening whenever he's in possession.
In fact, Grealish's numbers are comparable to that of Eriksen. Given that Spurs have lacked a reliable backup for the playmaker for some time -and his influence is sorely missed when he's out of the side- it's a particularly logical signing.
Plenty to work with
Aside from statistics, there's plenty to suggest a logic behind Tottenham's interest in Grealish. From a financial perspective, it's a bargain as Daniel Levy will be hoping to take advantage of a cash-strapped Aston Villa cash-strapped and strike a cut-price deal for the 22-year-old.
From a footballing sense, this is exactly the sort of player Pochettino wants. He's a fantastic coach with a distinguished track record of turning young talent into stars, especially English prospects.
Moreover, Grealish is passionate, a fiery character that the Argentina manager can channel into effective performances.
The one issue performance-wise is that Grealish's decision-making is currently poor. He fluffed his lines on multiple occasions in the play-off final against Fulham, but at the age of 22, this is an aspect of his game that can be improved upon given some time.
Only an appetiser
Grealish would make great backup to Eriksen, improving on the current strength in depth, but that is the extent of it. Backup.
With Tottenham now an established top three side looking to make the next step and consistently challenge for major honours both in Europe and at home, bargain-hunting isn't the policy to pursue. Grealish isn't the player to bridge that gap and push them onto the next level.
Pochettino himself called for Levy to "be brave" and "take risks" in the pursuit of glory, with his deal and that of Harry Kane -both of whom earned significant pay rises-, suggesting that Levy was finally willing to flex a little financial clout in the transfer market.
Grealish, though, does not represent a flexing of financial muscle. This is another classic Levy bargain, not an elite signing, regardless of whether Pochettino can work some magic with the player.
Ultimately, this cannot detract from Spurs' pursuit of other higher profile signings. Established, potentially elite, internationals are the ones needed to provide the impetus for the next step.
Grealish is little more than an appetiser, the olives on the table before the main course arrives. The 22-year-old is not the Michelin star steak you're willing to pay top dollar for.
If, however, the club consider him as such, then Spurs are eating at the wrong restaurants altogether.
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