Glance at the score on your phone and see another 90 minutes for Jack Grealish in a Manchester City shirt with neither a goal nor an assist to his name. While Erling Haaland continues to hog all the headlines – he scored twice in only 45 minutes here – the £100m man from two summers ago seems to have drifted to the periphery at the Etihad.
That doesn’t quite tell the whole story though.
Grealish was named Man of the Match in City’s 5-0 thrashing of FC Copenhagen on Wednesday night, a just reward for his efforts on the night and proof, if you needed it, that for this team it doesn’t really matter who gets the Fantasy points as long as the wheels keep on turning.
Afterwards, his manager Pep Guardiola described the winger’s performance as ‘unbelievable’ but did state the next step for the player was to start scoring goals. So far, he’s on just one for the season Grealish himself admits that he was desperate to get on the scoresheet but is going through ‘one of those patches where nothing is falling’.
He’s perhaps right to feel as though the footballing gods are against him and could have had an assist on the board as early as the 11th minute after sending Bernardo Silva scampering through on goal. Alas, the Portuguese midfielder could only fire into the post from a tight angle.
His link-up play with Silva down City’s left-hand side caused Copenhagen problems throughout and it was the pair switching roles, with Bernardo drifting out and Grealish tucking in, that led to the England winger curling a shot towards the top corner. Goalkeeper Kamil Grabara was equal to it.
Five minutes later and it was rinse and repeat, with Grealish sharply cutting inside from the edge of the box. Once again the former Liverpool and Huddersfield Town shot-stopper managed to tip it over the bar at full stretch.
At which point we must mention Sergio Gomez, City’s new left-back, who has blended seamlessly into Guardiola’s team (which is never as easy as it sounds) and already appears to have a nuanced understanding of the spaces to take up as Grealish and Silva flicker around him.
For whatever reason, it had never seemed to quite click properly between Grealish and Joao Cancelo and Manchester City look far better with the right back over on his more natural side. Like Cancelo, Gomez is equally comfortable getting down the line to cross as he is holding that inverted full-back position Guardiola employs thus creating more space in which Grealish can operate.
They combined for the third goal, a slightly fortuitous double deflection that took another potential assist away from the England international, who did make a point of checking if it did go down as an own-goal in his post-match interview. The fifth goal, however, was all his own making after Grealish barrelled straight down the middle of the pitch, shrugged off a defender and played Riyad Mahrez in to square for Julian Alvarez.
Grealish, of course, was right behind the Argentine waiting to put the ball in the net himself.
The goals will come. So too the assists. What’s important is that City’s record signing looks to have rediscovered the kind of verve that made him such an impossibly alluring asset in the first place. He may never become the same swashbuckling one-man show he was at Aston Villa – City simply don’t need him to – but his performance on Wednesday night proved he can flourish even within the rigidity of Guardiola‘s system.