In his latest column, Paul Merson says why Jack Grealish’s inconsistent form at Man City may convince them to sell him, and why Chelsea face a big rebuilding job this summer.
Grealish became the most expensive player in Premier League history, and the sixth-most of all time, when he joined the Premier League champions for £100m from Aston Villa last summer.
The 26-year-old could still end up with Champions League and Premier League winners medals in his first season at the Etihad – but he has started barely half of his new side’s league games, and none of their European fixtures since the group stages.
Former England and Arsenal midfielder Merson explains why he’s not convinced Grealish will come good for Pep Guardiola and why the club might be tempted to move him on in the future. He also identifies where Chelsea’s summer rebuild will begin, and why Norwich’s business model is working just fine – for now.
‘I never saw Grealish move working’
I had a feeling it would be like this – I didn’t get the move to Man City. He’s a top player, I’m a big fan of Jack. I didn’t see it working really though. From the age of six he’s been taught to get the ball, dribble with it and beat everybody. From the age of six.
Then he comes through the ranks, gets into the Villa team and keeps doing that, and then goes to a team that is all pass, pass, pass. 20 years he’s been taught one way and now he’s got to stop doing that and pass the ball. And it’s hard. It’s hard.
He’s been getting the ball, beating the world, and then do what you want Jack. Now, he gets the ball and has to pass it. He might turn round and say he’s loving every minute, but I think he’s finding it difficult at the moment.
He’s got to keep playing a certain way, they want to pass and they all know what they’re doing. They have a plan, and he doesn’t play that way. He gets on the ball and he wants to beat people, now he’s got to change that at 25, 26 years of age.”
I don’t think he’s going to get used to doing it. I think they might sell him, I might be wrong. Maybe not this summer, but is the lad enjoying it? You’ve got to ask him.
Pep is one of the best coaches in the world and he won’t want to be seen to be unable to change a player yet, so I think he’ll stay this summer, but Jack wants to play football. It’ll be interesting.
‘Chelsea are playing catch-up – and need defensive rebuild’
They’ve got to sell the club before they do anything else. Until they sell the club, they can’t bring anyone in. If you went and bought a house for £300,000 tomorrow it would take three months, now we’re talking about £4bn. It’s not going to be done quickly – it’s worrying really.
It needs to be done before the end of the season or they’re in danger of getting left behind. They’ve got to bring players in, they’re behind Man City and Liverpool, we’ve seen that. They’ll want to bring players in and offload players.
Rudiger will be a massive loss, I can’t express how big that’s going to be.
If they played a four at the back, he wouldn’t be missed.
He’ll go and chase the ball, close down, go out of position – but in a three he can go and take that chance.
Chelsea need bodies at the back. Antonio Rudiger’s gone on a free, Andreas Christensen’s going to go too, they’ve got Thiago Silva who’s outstanding, and they’ve got two kids in Malang Sarr and Trevoh Chalobah who are very talented, but it’s going to be hard to play them week-in, week-out.
Rudiger will be a massive loss, I can’t express how big that’s going to be. If they played a four at the back, he wouldn’t be missed. He can only go and play somewhere in a three, for me, he reminds me of a David Luiz – he’ll go and chase the ball, close down, go out of position – but in a three he can go and take that chance.
Chelsea haven’t got much choice but to keep going with Lukaku. They’re getting sold, they haven’t got any money, they can’t be buying people for £100m and selling them for half that. That ain’t happening. For me, I think he’ll be staying there, and hopefully he kicks on next season.
They went to a four against Brentford, left players out against Arsenal, and let in a lorry load of goals in both games. That and the Champions League game in Madrid have knocked them sideways. They slaughtered Real Madrid in the second leg, didn’t get too much of an opportunity in the first leg, and I personally think that was the one.
Now it’s all on the FA Cup. But that Champions League game hit them. They were outstanding that day, and I don’t think they fully recovered. It hasn’t been free-flowing ever since then.
But you also look at it and the chances aren’t going in either. I watched them beat Southampton and they put six past them, but then you see them at Everton, they hit both posts and Pickford’s making worldie saves. On another day, that could be three or four and we’re saying they’ve turned a corner and they’re back.
I think people can win trophies at Chelsea and still get the sack, but Thomas Tuchel is a top manager. They should’ve been playing in the semi-finals of the Champions League again, with a bit of luck. We’d be talking about one of the best comebacks of all time then, but now it’s like ‘is Tuchel under pressure?’ and it would be Chelsea’s loss if he went. He’s a top manager, a top manager, and he’s what they need. Ruthless, hard and fair.
When James and Chilwell were both fit, I thought Chelsea would win the league. They were outstanding, they were breezing past teams, the wing-backs were both scoring goals, and they had a system that worked. Then they both got injured within a couple of weeks of each other, and that was it. They drop a few games, and Man City and Liverpool are relentless. You drop a couple of defeats and the other teams win, that’s a lot of points gone very quickly.
‘Norwich model works – but it’s risky’
They keep on doing it – they’ve bought players who will keep them coming up. Pukki’s going to score a lot of goals in the Championship next season, they pack out their ground every week and they will be the team to beat again next season. If they don’t get up next season, they’ll be a team that just fizzle away, if I’m being honest.
They have a way of doing it, they’re a money machine. They come up, go back down, get the parachute payments, come back up – you wouldn’t mind having shares if that went on the market.
But the year they don’t manage it, I think they’re in trouble. The parachutes will dry up, and before you know it another three teams come down from the Premier League and all of a sudden then all of a sudden there’s five or six in there. Then they’d be right up against it.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. But if it works, the fans love it. You hear people say they’re not sure about going up to get beat every week – everybody loves a winning team, it doesn’t matter what league you’re in. You keep on winning, going away from home with your mates, driving up the motorway knowing you’ve got a chance, it’s great. But they’re playing a risky game.