Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish has responded to criticism from Graeme Souness.
The Sky Sports pundit questioned the 24-year-old’s work ethic when he doesn’t have the ball, calling Grealish a ‘passenger’ when his side doesn’t have the ball.
Villa suffered a 2-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, a defeat which leaves them third from bottom in the relegation zone.
Grealish’s side have five matches remaining where they will hope to pick up enough points to secure their place in next season’s Premier League campaign.
Grealish has long been touted for a big-money move to a top Premier League club.
However, Souness has reservations whether the midfielder is good enough to perform consistently in a more talented team.
“He has got quality but do the top teams carry passengers when they don’t have the ball? No – they don’t have players that stand with their hands on their hips when they lose the ball,” Souness said.
“Everyone rolls their sleeves up to be the first, second or third one to press. That is something that is not in his game right now.
“I’m not denying he has talent – but for me, there’s a big question mark.”
Souness 🗣 "You think he's ready for a bigger team, I'm not so sure"
Heskey 🗣 "Villa drop back, it's the tactics"
Souness 🗣 "Are you related to him?"
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) July 5, 2020
Grealish is the most fouled player in the Premier League with many believing this to be a reflection of the threat he poses to other teams and his ability to make opposition players uncomfortable.
However, Souness also sees a problem with this.
“When I was a player, I wouldn’t want to be the most fouled player in the league,” Souness added.
“That means I’m holding onto the ball too long. That means I’m not seeing the picture early enough, I’m taking extra touches when I don’t need to.
“He has ability and he’s easy on the eye, silky on the eye. But, I am yet to be convinced by him.”
“When I was being coached at Liverpool, I was told that I had to make the striker’s mind up with my body movement. I’m making them run where I’m looking to kick the ball. I think someone that gets fouled that much isn’t seeing the picture quick enough.
“As an old midfield player, would I have liked to play against him? I would have loved to have played against him.
“He allows me to get close to him, get physical with him. I don’t want to play Paul Scholes, Xavi or Andres Iniesta. They are too quick – they pop it off in one or two touches. I want to play against people like him – he would allow me to mess him around.”
Inevitably, many disagree with Souness’ take, including Grealish himself who tweeted a statistic which shows that he has the second-highest number of ‘chances created’ in the Premier League this season – behind Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.
Can’t please everyone 🤷🏻♂️ https://t.co/Ozu0Tb8YTn
— Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish) July 6, 2020
Next up for Villa is a clash at home with an in-form Manchester United, before their final four matches against Crystal Palace, Everton, Arsenal and West Ham.