When Jack Grealish signed for Manchester City in the summer, you’d have been hard-pressed to find an Aston Villa fan who was happy about the move.
The England international completed a record-breaking £100m move to the Premier League champions after a stellar campaign at Villa Park, becoming the most expensive British player ever. Villa weren’t shy about spending the cash to replace him, bringing in Emiliano Buendia from Norwich in a £35m move, Leon Bailey for £28.8m from Bayer Leverkusen and Danny Ings from Southampton for £26.5m.
Jamaican winger Bailey has struggled with fitness issues but has done well in the short amount of game time he’s been afforded, registering three goal involvements. Ings started the campaign well with three goals and two assists in ten games but his influence hasn’t quite been what it was at Southampton, where he was the main man in every aspect.
Buendia has been better since the arrival of Steven Gerrard as manager, lodging an assist versus Leicester, but the difference in quality between himself and Grealish is noticeable even on a good day.
Villa have been struggling creatively this season but they’ve also lacked that single player that they can look to for inspiration in a time of need. Step forward, John McGinn.
The Scotland international has been a key man for the Midlands outfit for several years, since joining the club from Hibernian back in the Championship in 2018.
His energy, tenacity and ability to go from box to box effectively were especially useful in the club’s first two seasons in the Premier League. But under Gerrard, McGinn has become extra important in midfield as the man to inspire his teammates and the fans of the club.
While he doesn’t have the silky footwork or flash that Grealish possesses, he is the new leader on the pitch. Rather than leading the pack in an offensive way by dazzling against defenders, it’s the 27-year-old who sets the tempo in midfield with his forward passing and smash-mouth style. His enthusiasm and determination is contagious amongst the team and gets the fans on their feet, something Gerrard has been keen to do in his opening games as manager.
McGinn is the new inspiration in the Villa team, but more so because he leads by example rather than carrying the team on his back. He is the epitome of a Gerrard midfielder – powerful, strong, determined, technically sound and with room for improvement.
Gerrard labelled him as “terrific” after the win over Leicester at the weekend and the performances have seen the £27m-rated man linked with a potential move to Manchester United. Watching him, it’s not a surprise at all; he could just be their new Grealish.
AND in other news, Douglas Luiz is thriving in his new role under Steven Gerrard.