One Moment is a rebooted post-game Aston Villa column that takes a closer look at one single moment from the last Villa game. This week, we’re looking at the moment when Grealish grabbed the narrative and punted it into the sky.
Nakamba springs the press and cuts through the midfield with an instant flick pass. It is drive through to Villa captain Jack Grealish, who drifts into the box, before pulling the ball back for a forward. He receives it just as quick as he releases it, and curls the ball with intensity beyond the Norwich goalkeeper Michael McGovern.
One moment and for Aston Villa, it’s their third goal of the afternoon - for Grealish, it’s his first goal of the current Premier League season, and more importantly, it’s a notch up on he one stat that will defy his doubters. Goals.
If there’s one Aston Villa player who will come in for stick after each game, it’s Jack Grealish. Win, lose, or draw, Jack Grealish has done something wrong in the eyes of someone. For the amateur analyst Grealish ‘doesn’t do enough’, for the diehard Villan, Grealish isn’t as effective as he was in the Championship. By the opposition critics, James Maddison, Dele Alli and Mason Mount are held up and compared. In the eyes of the jealous onlooker, Grealish doesn’t score, doesn’t head the ball, doesn’t play cleanly, is greedy, is selfish, is more concerned with his looks than his play, and is a colossal idiot. They hate his face, his shouting, his belligerence on the ball and everything else about him. Screw the headband, and fuck your shinpads, Jack.
Grealish absorbs the shallow criticism though, and they are lost within the sea of his ability. Grealish is despised because he is different. Grealish is beloved because he is different. For the weight that amateur critics base in their negative opinions, they are easily brushed off by Jack - Villa’s boy wonder. Grealish, as a flamboyant player, will always be a target - and in the natural nature of things, most of the targeted flack that he receives won’t be based anywhere near reason. Cheap shots fly, tweets are shot out by betting accounts and banter merchants.
Jack needn’t do much for a flashy riposte, and his goal becomes far too natural. Another moment, but this time it’s a tangible V sign flicked cunningly into the face of his brutishly screaming doubters.
If this rubbish is affecting Jack Grealish at all, it’s affecting him in the right way. After stepping up to the Premier League, Grealish has barely changed his game. He drives from deep, he is graceful with his foward momentum, he creates openings for others and carves out chances for himself. There have been poor decisions and sloppy actions, but this is not a Jack Grealish problem, but something stemming from human nature itself.
Grealish’s best goals are almost effortless. The pinging volley that slapped off of his foot against Derby, the decoy runs and dancing jive against Rotherham, and this is almost up there. Grealish understands this team, it is his team, and when he finds space, he will lead his players into it - driving forward for a goal. He understands space and time like nobody else, and contorts it to his will.
He’s also able to capture the narrative. This was Grealish’s first Premier League goal since he spun the ball into the corner when Tim Sherwood’s Villa fell 3-2 thanks to a late comeback from Leicester City in September 2015.
The last time this stage saw Super Jack, he was being a kid, enjoying himself and being kicked to bits in Villa’s failing relegation campaign. You almost cannot believe they expected the same player to start for Villa this season? We lost the kid, and gained the battle-hardened captain. The one who runs the bloody show, and we all have front-row seats for it. It’s been such a long time since Leicester, the game that defined an Aston Villa era. Ideally, Grealish has helped define a new one today.
You have to love him, every second of this is greatness.