Jack Grealish admits he hasn’t been at his best since joining Manchester City but insists he handles pressure well and has a ‘fantastic relationship’ with Pep Guardiola.
The 27-year-old was already in the spotlight before his £100m move last summer to the Premier League champions from Aston Villa, but international interest in England has increased since then.
Grealish scored his first goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Wolverhampton And although he won the title during his first year in Manchester, he admits that his form needs to improve.
“I think I handle the pressure well, but I feel I can start playing much better,” Grealish told a news conference in England ahead of Italy and Germany headers in the Nations League.
“Maybe I haven’t played top of my game since I moved to City, but I think I’ve shown glimpses of it and over the next couple of months in particular I’m just going to try to get as low as I can, work hard and hope good things happen.”
Since transferring his huge money from Villa Park to Al Ittihad, Grealish says he has had to adapt to the change of culture, but he stressed that his relationship with City coach Guardiola is a positive one.
“It’s completely different than it was in a villa,” he said. “I think I was more free in a villa.”
“At City, there’s more of a structure. I have a great relationship with the coach. I’ve said in many interviews that I’ve never seen anything like this before with the way he thinks and the way he looks at football.
“He’s just obsessed with him and you can see why and find out why. I know people would say maybe I play a little differently than the way I used to but I think that comes with the players I play with as well.
“I was a captain at Villa and one of the first names on the team sheet. When you come to City – and that doesn’t respect Villa – you have players like Kevin. [De Bruyne]Elephant [Foden]I can continue.
“We have right-back at the moment in Joao Cancelo and I think he is one of the best wingers in the world. Obviously it is different and sometimes difficult.
“I’m playing with a lot of great players and obviously that will change my game a little bit. I won’t be the same player I was because I’m playing for a different club, a different team, a different team. I’m a manager. I hope this is the start of my season and I can just start from here.”
Grealish: I want to be friends with the media!
After City’s 3-0 win over Molineux on Saturday, Kevin De Bruyne suggested that English players like Grealish are being unfairly targeted because of the nation’s mentality of criticizing themselves.
The Belgium international’s view was shown to Grealish, who smiled and replied, “I’ll ask you, won’t I?”
When the reporter said he agreed, the City star said with a laugh: “I don’t know – I want to be friends with all of you!
“I can clearly see where he’s coming from a little bit. But I think that’s exactly the case in this country, especially if I myself, play for one of the biggest clubs in the world, who win titles every single year.
“And obviously when I have the price tag that I have on my head, people are going to want to talk. It’s just something I need to[confront].
“I keep coming back to it, and saying cuddling it and it’s just so integral, really. But, yeah, I see where it’s coming from for a bit.”
England aware of the threat of relegation
Grealish appears to have taken everything – good or bad – in his stride, which he will continue to do in England’s Nations League matches this month.
The Three Lions will be relegated if they lose Friday’s San Siro game to Italy before facing old foes Germany on Monday – the final match of their last camp before the World Cup kicks off in November.
England’s next two matches…
- Friday 23 September: Italy (Away) – kick-off at 7.45pm
- Monday 26th September: Germany (at home) – kick-off at 7.45pm
“I think for us, it’s something we’re clearly conscious of, but it’s something we all embrace,” Grealish said.
“In particular, I will not speak on behalf of the coach, but I am sure he has certain players who will go to the World Cup 100 per cent, and obviously there are certain places and numbers that are still within reach. We are just training as usual.
“Now we have two games that are going to be a very difficult game and that is really like a pre-World Cup camp.
“We used to say before the Euros, we had a few weeks of training, good friendlies, and we’re not going to get that this time.
“But everyone is in the same boat, so we need to embrace it and look forward to it.”
England unites with European countries to fight discrimination
England will join hands with the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Wales in a campaign against discrimination.
The OneLove campaign, originally started by the Dutch, will use the power of football to promote inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind as the world’s eyes turn to the global game. The message will be represented by the men’s national team captains wearing the signature OneLove badge.
The FA’s public commitment to the campaign will begin at England’s UEFA Nations League match against Italy in Milan on Friday 23 September, with captain Harry Kane wearing the OneLove badge.
The eight nations that qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup will then adopt the OneLove badge – bearing a heart containing colors representing all backgrounds – for fixtures at this winter’s tournament with the intention of running until the end of the season.
‘Southgate’s criticism of the summer was harsh’
Grealish believes criticism of England manager Gareth Southgate in the summer was “extremely harsh” given the success he enjoyed during his tenure.
While the nation is still searching for its first men’s cup since 1966, England have been no closer to matching Sir Alf Ramsey’s champions than the last two major tournaments.
Southgate led England on their way to the World Cup semi-final four years ago, as surprising as it was unforgettable, before last summer’s penalty shoot-out put the country in Euro 2020 glory.
But the former defender has not shied away from criticism and has come under fire after making four appearances in the Nations League in June and ending in Molyneux’s 4-0 defeat to the unwelcome Hungary.
England’s 28-man squad to face Italy and Germany
goalkeepers: Dean Henderson, Nick Pope, and Aaron Ramsdale.
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell, Conor Cody, Eric Dyer, Mark Gueye, Rhys James, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.
Midfielders: Judd Bellingham, Mason Mount, Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse.
Attackers: Tammy Abraham, Jarrod Bowen, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Evan Toni.
“I think it was tough,” Grealish said of the reaction to Southgate.
“We got to the final last year and then the Hungary game (we lost 1-0) at the start of the last camp, I think before that the last time we lost a game over 90 minutes was probably Belgium in November 2020 or something.
“So I think it’s very difficult, especially (as you saw in) the World Cup and the Euro of how well the team and the manager himself are doing.
“I thought it was downright cruel but sometimes that’s what you get if you’re English. I’ve definitely had my fair share!”
Grealish: I’m not just a superhero
Grealish has been quick to court England fans since his debut in September 2020, but the fact that 11 of his 23 caps have been a substitute underscores the work needed to step up.
“I would like to be (a starter) but I know again how much impact I can make from the bench,” he added. “I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘This is what I am – someone just coming in.'”
“I started one game in the Euros and got help, and I was about to hit the moon.
“The manager is the manager, and if he and his crew decide to play with me, I will do my best and also if I am on the bench, I am ready to participate as an influential substitute.”
World Cup Group B matches in England
November 21: Iran (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick-off at 1 pm
November 25: United States of America (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor) – kick-off 7pm
November 29: Wales (Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick-off 7pm
Gareth Southgate has revealed his last England squad ahead of the World Cup – but who will make the starting lineup?
What would your England starting line-up look like if the World Cup started today and all the players were available? Use the interactive selector to choose your team below, screenshots you select and share on Twitter Tweet embed.