DANNY MURPHY: Pep Guardiola is handling Manchester City new man Jack Grealish perfectly


Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival in Manchester has taken the spotlight off Jack Grealish, who would otherwise have been more scrutinised as the Premier League’s first £100million player.

I’m sure it’s helped but the biggest reason for his encouraging start at City is Pep Guardiola picking him every week.

We know Pep likes rotation, particularly with his attackers, but Grealish has started every Premier League and Champions League game so far in a position wide on the left which he knows and enjoys.

While Pep Guardiola likes to rotate, Jack Grealish has started all six Premier League games

The former Aston Villa man has made the left wing spot his own at City so far this season

The former Aston Villa man has made the left wing spot his own at City so far this season

It has helped him gain confidence and find a rhythm straight away whereas we’ve seen other signings struggle to make an impact after being drip-fed into the line-up. Donny van de Beek at Manchester United is an obvious example.

Guardiola has thrown Grealish in at the deep end and stuck with him. The player knows if he has a bad moment or a bad game, it doesn’t mean the axe. That is really important for a signing eager to make a quick impression on team-mates and fans.

Imagine if Grealish had been left out of games before the 0-0 draw with Southampton and then played in that. 

He might have been blamed. But because of his contribution to wins against Norwich, Arsenal and Leicester, there was no added pressure. Guardiola selected him again at Chelsea and he was outstanding.

Grealish has hit the ground running for City since his club record £100 million move from Villa

Grealish has hit the ground running for City since his club record £100 million move from Villa

The 26-year-old has scored two goals and set up two more in eight games in all competitions

The 26-year-old has scored two goals and set up two more in eight games in all competitions

He was subbed in midweek against PSG, one of those nights where things didn’t go for him, but there has been no big inquest or suggestion he won’t play against Liverpool.

We should also credit the player’s mentality. He’s arrived from Aston Villa and had the courage and bravery to fit into one of the best teams in the world.

Guardiola doesn’t seem to know his best front three yet, with Raheem Sterling no longer the go-to man. 

But Grealish is the one picked every time so far. With Trent Alexander-Arnold injured, I suspect Jurgen Klopp may play Joe Gomez ahead of James Milner at right back to try and combat Grealish.

NO HURRY FOR HARRY

If Spurs drop their asking price for Harry Kane in January, Manchester City would be interested. But I don’t think Pep Guardiola will press his club to break the bank for the England captain. 

He is finding another way. Guardiola’s preference to play a false nine who drops deep and links play may prevent City from scoring as many goals but it does allow them to control matches.

A No 9 who stays high up the pitch might have prevented City’s blanks against Leicester, Spurs, Southampton and PSG but the team would lose in other ways.

City looked to sign Harry Kane in the summer but the England captain remained at Spurs

City looked to sign Harry Kane in the summer but the England captain remained at Spurs

Kane is the one centre forward I believe would be able to fit into City’s style because of his technical ability. But I sense Guardiola has moved on, having failed to sign him in the summer.

He’s rotating up top. Ferran Torres has done well but I’ve seen him play for Spain and think his best position is out wide using his pace to get in crosses.

Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Grealish lack the pace to run in behind defenders, although Foden’s performance at Stamford Bridge last week should give him the nod against Liverpool.

Sterling does have speed but it’s less natural for him to play in that role, especially against the best centre halves.

Kane, along with Erling Haaland, is one of the world class strikers on Pep Guardiola's radar

Kane, along with Erling Haaland, is one of the world class strikers on Pep Guardiola’s radar

I feel the best solution for Guardiola is to play Gabriel Jesus in the middle. 

The Brazilian has done well wide on the right but we saw from his winner against Chelsea that he is more comfortable finding space inside the penalty area than anyone else at City. 

So I don’t think it is a case of having to splash £150m in January or face disaster.

KLOPP IS STRONGER 

Klopp’s Liverpool squad is stronger than when they won the Premier League title. At that time, there was a big drop-off between Jurgen Klopp’s first XI and the rest. 

Klopp was fortunate his famed front three of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino rarely needed a break in 2019-20. 

But now he has got Diogo Jota, an extra option who doesn’t weaken the team. 

Murphy believes Jurgen Klopp has a better squad now than when Liverpool won the league

Murphy believes Jurgen Klopp has a better squad now than when Liverpool won the league

Jota is such a goal threat and can play in any of the three forward positions.

Gini Wijnaldum has left from the title-winning side but the dependables — Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Fabinho — are still there. 

Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott have both played well enough to get first-team games on merit and Thiago Alcantara has added a new dimension. 

Diogo Jota has bolstered Liverpool's attacking options after arriving from Wolves

Diogo Jota has bolstered Liverpool’s attacking options after arriving from Wolves

Curtis Jones (left) has proved himself worthy of a starting spot for Liverpool this season

Curtis Jones (left) has proved himself worthy of a starting spot for Liverpool this season

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita are also hopefully over the worse of their injury problems.

In defence, no longer do Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have to flog themselves in every game. 

Konstantinos Tsimikas has looked a worthy alternative to Robertson and the signing of Ibrahima Konate means Joe Gomez can switch to right back if Alexander-Arnold is injured.

CITY MAY KOP IT!

I used to be cynical whenever it was suggested the crowd could have a significant impact on the way players performed.

Then I played for Liverpool against Roma on the night Gerard Houllier returned from heart surgery and realised the difference supporters can make.

Murphy expects Anfield to be at his raucous best for the visit of Manchester City

Murphy expects Anfield to be at his raucous best for the visit of Manchester City

City won 4-1 at Anfield last season but the game was played behind closed doors

City won 4-1 at Anfield last season but the game was played behind closed doors  

The emotion that comes with saying farewell to the legendary Roger Hunt at Anfield today is bound to be a factor against City.

My coaches Ronnie Moran and Ronnie Evans always talked about great players from the past, including Roger. 

It instilled a sense of responsibility in whoever pulled on a red shirt. City might be taken aback by the passion.

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